I went out recently, film camera in hand, specifically in search of a ‘classic’ photograph. I happened on this scene in which the man’s hat, coat and briefcase would give me that ‘timeless’ look, helped of course by TRI-X film.
I think this would have been difficult, but not impossible, to create using digital equipment. It’s the combination of the grain with the slightly faded greys.
But what do we mean by a ‘classical look’? Is it simply a photograph in black and white? Well, no, as this do not necessarily give such a look. We could take a photograph of a modern scene in black and white and still it could look modern. Is it the fact that a photograph harks back to a previous era by virtue of its costume, street furniture and architecture? Again, no, as it would be possible to take a photograph of a historical reenactment without it looking ‘classical’. Is it more to do with the way that a photograph is expressed through the rendering of a film. I think this has more to do with it, but it is difficult to define. We seem to know when we see it but find it hard to define. This is because it’s more a mood or atmosphere rather than a specific set of attributes, although it is the attributes that give rise to it.