Old vs. New

When it comes to making art, it seems I enjoy pain. How did I go from early desktop technology adopter in my 30’s to vintage equipment owner in my 60’s? Let me explain.

For me, a proponent of using old technology, shooting black and white film with antique analog cameras, developing the film myself, and making crude prints using a 150-year old process employing rare-earth metals that are exorbitantly expensive is the definition of fun.

You should also know I also enjoy binding my feet to fit into tiny slippers, wearing burlap underwear, and extracting nostril hairs with needle-nosed pliers heated over a candle. When it comes to making art, it seems I enjoy pain.

Don’t get me wrong, I use digital photography on a collection of computers and devices all the time. I make prints on an assortment of Epson printers from the 1990s that I meticulously repair using replacement parts only available in China.

If you ask me, the inkjet printer peaked in quality and reliability about 1996 and has been in decline ever since. Unfortunately, this point-of-view has turned me into a part-time printer repairman with a suitcase full of specialized screwdrivers, hard-to-find lubricants, and air pressure testing meters. I even started wearing a shirt with my name embroidered on the pocket.

With an increasingly dim view of emerging technology, one wonders, How did I go from early desktop technology adopter in my 30’s to vintage equipment owner in my 60’s? Let me explain.

Early in my graphic design career, when I was designing museum publications in New York, I purchased typeset page proofs from Michael Bixler‘s Foundry in Skaneateles, New York (about 4 hours drive from the city).

Michael and Winifred refurbished a vintage British Monotype typecasting machine and installed it in a turn-of-the-20thcentury farmhouse barn. In an age of computer emergence, their metal typefaces continued to remain unsurpassed aesthetically for the design and production of outstanding letterpress printing

The Monotype machine was a mechanical monster invented in Philadelphia in the 1890s to automate setting type by hand which was a laborious and error-prone process.

However, whenever these complex machines broke down, which was frequently, there was only one qualified repairman. The man, then in his 80s, had never trained an apprentice. To make necessary repairs, Michael had to pay to fly him to New York from London.

I realize now, that was the beginning of my curmudgeon stage characterized by reverence for any technology that may require a great deal more time, but, produce superior results, was permanently instilled in me.

Certain crafts peak at a point in history and then start a slow steady decline as they are replaced by emerging technologies that gain wide adoption. Power tools have replaced working wood with hand tools. Bridges are no longer erected using millions of rivets, but, are welded together. Likewise, my antediluvian Epson printers will one day be laughed at by a future generation of photographers who will marvel that there was a time when we squirted ink onto sheets of dead trees and hung the results on our walls.

Mark Laurence LaRivière

Mark Laurence LaRivière

I'm a fine art painter and photographer who is always seeking to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.

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