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The demise of craftsmanship...

I went to a fine presentation at pro-photo supply by the local Nikon rep on the newest digital SLR.
She did a very fine job actually, convincing a very mixed and somewhat hostile crowd we should all get on the waiting list for the new $1000 plastic camera made in Thailand.

My question for everyone out there is this- Is anyone else out there disturbed by the fact that "technology" has replaced, and surpassed "craftsmanship" for getting the job done. As a "craftsman" myself, I even feel threatend by this trend, and more than a little depressed.

I'm not kidding about technology surpassing craftsmanship- this marvel of mass manufactured polycarbonate and silicon is a "better camera" in terms of delivering qaulity images easy and quick and efficient than say, the F2AS- what many consider the pinnicale of mechanical engineering in japanese SLR's. Now this is only one minor example, look at the real cost and quality of bicycles, cars as another.
It is beginning to feel as if nothing has any real value, (except maybe a house or property) any more.

So I thank my lucky stars photography is only a hobby and I'm not required to have the newest and best equipment to be competetive. That I'm able to pick up the mechanical wonders of yesterday for really cheap (the above mentioned f2 a noteable exeption), along with fabricating some equipment myself and truly enjoy using them in the making of black and white photographs with film, and washing the fiber based paper for two whole hours.

And does this make me as bad as people who worship crummy old cars?

At 32 am I too young to be getting nostalgic over old cameras, or finding myself bringing home old tools from yard sales to add to the collection (junk-pile) in the basement for the same reasons...

So, am I crazy? Anyone else affected by the replacement of craftsmanship (Man meaning male and female) with technology- can the two co-exist, (outside of the ultra-luxury markets).

Brain-power is used in the development of technology- but can it ever really replace the satisfaction of making something with your own hands? and if we can just buy and consume rather than have to create what we need or work for it doesn't it reduce the meaning in life a little

Hello out there
it's about happiness and fullfillment... 04.Apr.2004 10:42

this thing here

though this concern of yours has been around for a long time in capitalist industrialized societies, it also bothers me somewhat.

in my view, the issue is not whether robots and automated processes, when compared to craftmanship, produce an inferior or superior product, or a cheaper or a more expensive product.

in my opinion, without craftsmanship, what is lost is the worker's or the craftsperson's ability to take pride in the products they produce. they do not touch the products as they make them. they do not interact with them on any kind of tangible level. their skills and talents are not used, nor are they even needed. they cannot know when the process of making or fabricating a product is beginning or ending. all because robots or automated processes make them while "workers" simply supervise them from an autonomous, computerized control room.

as has been written about more than one hundred years ago by those critical of industrialized capitalism, this lack of ability to interact with the product being made produces a sense of alienation in the worker. an alienation from the work itself. because the person producing the thing is removed from the thing being produced. "i don't enjoy working here. i don't give a shit about what i'm doing here. i'm just here to make money to pay the rent."

imagine someone who crafts violins for a living. there is a specific term for this profession/craft, but i can't remember it... anyways, imagine if this hands-on craft became industrialized. a large corporation comes in and buys up all the small producers of violins by hostile takeover. then, they institute a process of industrialization, in order to cut labor costs and thereby cut prices and thereby increase annual profit.

now, the craftsperson who once labored daily with their hands, using very special skills and talents practiced for years which turns carefully selected wood into beautiful instruments, a process that was no doubt hard, slow, laborious work but one that produced a priceless amount of pride and enjoyment on the part of the craftsperson, now, this craftsperson simply stands near a laminating apparatus or a wood press, and for 8 hours a day pushes levers back and forth.

which of these persons, the craftsperson using their skills or the skilless "worker" pushing levers, is the happiest and the most fullfilled at the end of the day, and comes home to their family with a sense of pride? who GIVES A SHIT about what they do? who CAN care the most, simply because they are INVOLVED the most in what they do?

in my opinion, that happiness and fullfillment and sense of pride is a PRICELESS thing to have in this world today. to work because you enjoy what you do, and not simply because you HAVE TO, is like a gift from god. and it is the loss of craftmanship that destroys this happiness and fullfillment.

and i really don't know if anything in a modern capitalist society, millions of dollars, expensive consumer items, luxury vacations, can ever make up for it. i sometimes think that c.e.o's get paid so much money because they are under so much pressure. in other words, they are very stressed out, very unhappy people, despite their fancy cars and gigantic mansions. almost as if the wealth they surround themsleves with is a bribe or a narcotic that consumer society provides to medicate away the unhappiness. and then there are those fortunate enough to not get paid much but who are happy with their work...

Craftsmanship and Fair Trade 04.Apr.2004 15:04

politics as possible

I recently heard a radio show about the "Fair Trade" brand of coffee, tea and (coming soon) bananas and other fruit. "Fair Trade" products are all about individual small producers committed to organic farming, sustainability and small independent farms. One point brought out is that, without the "Fair Trade" network, globalized capitalist distribution systems would soon eliminate all but a few (genetically modified) varieties of coffee. That is because these small producers operate in marginal areas and under different conditions, holding with traditional and organic agricultural methods.

About hi-tech production, that is a complicated matter. However, I note that in places like Mexico, things that would be thrown away here in the U.S. can be, and are, repaired by amazingly specialized repair-and-rebuild independent businesses operating in very small shops even on the streets.

The craftsmanship movement was first organized as a kind of organized opposition to industrialization in 19th Century England. It continues today and you can find a well-worked theory and many examples of practice by researching the iNet. Key to the problem is denying global capital its current method of taking from the Earth as well as from exploited factory workers without having to account for, or pass on to consumers, the actual costs of production. The reality of current production methods is that these methods are based upon a denial of the fact of unsustainability. Everything that can be done to promote and further small, sustainable local production and conservation should be supported by all who are enlightened enough to perceive the problem. In addition to such positive efforts toward building the basis for a new sustainable world based on social justice, it is now very important to oppose all the institutions --- such as WalMart, the WTO, NATO, the World Bank and the IMF --- of the dying global hegemony of capital.

it's about happiness and fullfillment... 04.Apr.2004 19:38


I like what 'this thing here' wrote and I agree with ... well, almost every word. However, there is the other side of the relationship. Not the product, not the job, the person.

People have a basic need to do something good, whatever that means to each one. You have to do something useful, otherwise you will feel worthless. Worse than mass-produced crap, worse than alienation from the job, is alienation from the self.

We have a false myth that only skilled crafts-persons, who make things that machines cannot make, are skilled crafts-persons. Anybody can craft things with enough skill to serve domestic purposes. At least they could if school and tv didn't monopolize the time when they might be learning to make things. If all the forces of consumerism didn't insist the thing is worthless if it is not purchased from a corporation. If they didn't prove it, by selling gadgets of dubious utility that you can't make, by scouring the world and bringing to Hollywood the "most perfect" bodies, to Nashville the "best" guitarists, to Yankee Stadium the "fastest" ball-throwers. Mere humans are failures, every one.

The cruelest thing our culture does is deny people the practice, the time, the approval, to make things. The person who vehemently doesn't give a shit for the job is really angry at himself. He carries around a seething rage which he takes out on the wife, the kids, the poor, the protesters, the bicyclist blocking his lane -- but never those who cause his pain.

And once every generation or so, something like CNN stokes his anger to white heat and permits, invites him to vent it all on some people who are carefully less than people, living west of the Mississippi, in Japan, in Iraq...

A luthier is a maker, or merchant, of stringed instruments of all kinds. They made lutes first, violins later.

dio has a point 04.Apr.2004 20:27


yes the crafting is important but it's also important that people feel empowered to create without impossibly high standards. In the old old days most folks sang and played instruments for amusement but they weren't expected to be stars and it's that way with any number of things like gardening, sewing, writing, fixing things. I also agree that we need relationships with our stuff and that logically means less stuff. When I think of possessions I love there's the old shovel that fits my small hands and is bent just right, the chipped coffee cup a friend gave me years ago, the Hudson Bay blanket my parents got as a wedding present. Nothing that's really very (monetarily) valuable

thank you 04.Apr.2004 22:20

red suspenders

Nice to know I'm not alone out there!

the problem i see... 04.Apr.2004 22:42


...is that the knowledge of craftspeople is getting lost. We are becoming dependend on industrial technology. One day in the future when this whole industrialized mess collapses, we won't have the knowledge to build things ourselves. We will have to start from scratch.

Just Cogs In The Mfg. Wheel 05.Apr.2004 10:48


The worst thing about industrialized production of items is that there is no feeling of completion, and no satisfaction in a job actually "done" for most workers on the line. Their job may be to insert one part before the item moves along to someone else. At that point, they lose control of the product and never see it again. I know that some megacompanies try to personalize this sort of mindless work by letting the quality control checkers at the end stick a piece of paper with their name on it into the pocket of an item, but that has always seemed to me more of an issue of accountability than pride. If the item produced is praiseworthy, the workers never hear about it and the management takes the credit and the backpatting.

"This Thing Here", whose post is great, wrote: "It is beginning to feel as if nothing has any real value, (except maybe a house or property) any more."

Property, absolutely. But a majority of new houses? No way. I've just finished repair work on a 1926 home and there's no comparison between the materials and care used to construct this home and what goes into today's median-level family dwelling which is NOT built for the long haul. Even if you have to upgrade an older home's electric and insulation, you've still got a home that is, basicly, more sound.

I've lived down the road from two "Street of Dreams" and high-end developments in the West Hills (several just into WashCo where getting permits is easier and faster than MultCo) and paid quite a few visits to the building sites while they were going up. You'd think something like the SOD would have higher standards (well, some of the homes do) but I saw appalling stuff like substandard wood, haphazardly located nails not connected to anything, foundations improperly repaired, sucky drainage, out of control patchwork, etc. all covered up with wallboard so that the owner is none the wiser. Other than the 2 x 4s and weight bearing beams used in the bare bones, most of the wood in these new homes is various sorts of pressboard and compressed chipboard. What looks like brick or stone is only a facade.

Granted, it would probably cost a fortune to construct from scratch (and using the same materials) today a home like you would find in Alameda or Eastmoreland.

disposability is embedded 05.Apr.2004 11:40

be the one to wake the 100th monkey

a few decades ago someone realized that quality actually hurts sales... it's much more profitable to make something that looks great off the shelf, and has the illusion of quality... then when the cheap plastic components break, you have to buy another.

we don't need new laws to change this, we need a culture change. CEOs should be embarrassed they make products that have built-in design flaws that lead to inevitable failure. They should be ashamed making hundreds of millions while there are people without clean water or a roof over their head.

wanted: cointel agents for humanity and planet earth
mission: infiltrate the elinner circles.... become friends with the CEO's daughter, then get her to shame her dad into having a heart (-;

digital = making money 05.Apr.2004 14:09


digital does some nice visual things, makes images and creativity more accessible for many, and arguably, might help to conserve some resources. Aesthetically, digital has possibly always will have much to be desired compared to analog. People who don't already know now, may come to understand the beauty of imperfection inherent in film grain. Also, when you create a negative, you have in itself this viewable, material representation of your work rather than a magnetic file requiring peripherals to view. That's nice.

... 05.Apr.2004 15:36

this thing here

cool comments from everyone. thanks.

CEOs should not be embarrassed 05.Apr.2004 20:55


They are paid to make profits. That entails shoddy goods, repeat sales, desperate people, bribes and corruption.

It is we who should be ashamed, for accepting all this.

We should be ashamed, too, for accepting the myth that CEOs are shamable.

Will the film and processing be abailable to us film guys???? 13.Apr.2004 20:00

photographix dzine@earthlink.net

Good to see I am not the only one who stll prefers using film cameras.
Digital has its place perhaps, however digital does not replace the
creation captured with film...No way. My concern is the availability of film and processing in the future.
I shoot mostly medium format. I have already been told by some labs Kodak will stop making
e6 in the near future. Some labs I use have already dropped either c-41 or e6. What will happen
to Mamiya with only one attempt into the digital world with the digital 645 back? Why will I pay 10,000.00
to shoot the digital 645 when all thats needed is the $1,000.00 SLR featuring 6mp with interchangable lens?