I am a photography agnostic--whatever god you want is fine with me. If it is good photography, or at least interesting, I don't care if it came from a cell phone, Holga, or an IQ180, I just simply enjoy it. The more variety the better. The pecking order of which is better or more worthy is just scholasticism. I had a great time in the darkroom. I have a great time with photoshop. Neither process/workflow changes the intrinsic value of my work.
Paraphrasing Mark Twain:
"The reports of Photography's death have been greatly exaggerated."
Go out, make photos, don't worry what anyone else has to say about it. ;-)
Self Portrait - Tokyo 2002
Godfrey - GDGPhoto Flickr Stream
Here's an interesting read:
Camera Obscura and the Paintings of Old Masters
Technology and art seem to move in complicated patterns
To borrow a phrase from Collingwood, film photography is "photography proper" while digital is "photography falsely-so-called." The most important quality that separates film photography from all other artistic mediums is it's connection to it's object. A competent film photograph is a literal copy of it's object. An object must exist in order for the photograph to be taken in the first place. No object = no photograph. On the contrary, digital imaging can be connected to an object but doesn't have to be. An image can be created, or parts of an image, without any connection to an object whatsoever.
In semiotics, there are 3 types of signs:
Indexical signifiers are directly tied to their signifieds. In film photography, the photograph (signifier) is always attached to it's object (signified.) Meanwhile, iconic signifiers can resemble a signified, but do not have to be directly attached to them. Most "realistic" paintings are iconic signs precisely because they may resemble or represent a real object while lacking a direct tie to it. The painter's hand and interpretation always comes between the object and the image. Finally, symbolic signifiers do not have a direct connection to a signified at all. Mondrians non-representational (non-mimetic) work can be considered an example of a signifier that isn't tied directly to a signified.
Digital imaging can be iconic or symbolic, but it can never honestly be indexical. This means that digital imaging is closer to painting and other graphic arts than it is to film photography. Ultimately, denotation is what separates film photography from digital imaging. Personally, I've learned to consider digital imaging a completely separate medium from photography and now judge it according to it's own rules.
Last edited by Mike M; 14th December 2012 at 17:42.
3 Member(s) liked this post
Mike, there is so much wrong with that line of thought, it is hard to know where to begin. I assume you are talking about R. G. Collingwood who died in 1948. I doubt he had anything to say about digital photography at all. The largest fallacy with the argument is that in a photo-chemical process you can indeed create an image without an object--there is a whole classification of cameraless photography that has been around for ages. And naturally, a digital photograph is just as connected to its signified as a chemical one, which is why digital imaging is so important in the sciences
^ My post is related to medium specificity or "the unique and proper area of competence" for a given medium: Medium specificity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The most unique characteristic that differentiates film photography from other mediums is it's indexical quality. That doesn't mean that every individual will use it in that fashion. A person is certainly free to work with darkroom and chemistry etc tricks like you described. There are an infinite number of ways to abuse a medium, but that is not the same as using a medium in the way that makes it specific.
Yes, Collingwood died long before digital photography was popularized. Folks that are familiar with his work should easily recognize that I borrowed his terminology from "The Principles of Art" and applied it to the film/digital photography discussion.
Well, digital photography has indexical quality as well--it produces a photograph (signifier) of an object (signified). There is no differentiation between that and film.
As far as your criteria of using a medium in a way that "makes it specific," that seems like an arbitrary classification. Beyond the use of light, there is no limitation within photography, which is why cameraless photographic forms exist. I don't understand your exclusion.
I have a feeling that part of the difference in opinion originates from the way different people define differences in visual expression. If I look upon photography as an absolute visual value, digital and film photography are in the same group, since the basis for the creation is the same, although the media are different, as opposed to painting etc., which follows a different process.
If I look at digital and film photography as different values along an axis, where all visual arts are placed somewhere along the same line, the definitions become much less obvious, and where the borders between different forms of art are placed will depend on the individual observer.
I tend to think along the lines of the latter, but both obviously have their merits.
Did this make sense?
The key point to understand is that a simulation is not the same as the real thing. So, even though digital can emulate the visual aesthetics of film photography it cannot honestly share the same relationship with an object. Digital's relationship to it's object is more similar to painting than to film. In fact, digital could easily be used to simulate the abstract object of a non-mimetic Mondrian painting in a way that could never be achieved with film.
The qualities related to medium specificity are determined precisely because they are NOT arbitrary. They are the exact qualities that make a particular medium individual and unique from any other. To the contrary, the qualities that mediums share between each other are the ones that are arbitrary.
I agree with mike
I think there is something about presence in analogue photography- its is hard to get over that fact when you look at film under a loupe say, you get that feeling that there is a miniature version of the world imprinted physically on the film. Negatives and positives have the same quality, it is tactile even, you can examine the film under different lights and it is like looking at the world from space- miniature hills and valleys, undoubtedly real tiny recreations.
The "objectness" of analogue photography I think is the defining difference. Certainly in digital you can make prints, even analogue prints, but there will never be a connection to the real light-imprinted, sculpted original. Digital is a simulation of that imprint, but is not that imprint. This is the "indexical" that Mike is talking about I think.
So even if you are talking about what the eye finally sees- the finished print, you can fool the eye and make a simulation of an indexical print, but you cannot make an actual copy. This is an irony of analogue and digital- people denigrated analogue photography as mechanical reproduction, you could make hundreds of copies- well, those copies are not the same kind of copies as a digital copies, true copies- bit for bit. I guess digital is the logical conclusion to the photographic idea, pure mechanistic reproduction.
Thats kind of a contrary conclusion isn't it?
I think its funny that one could prefer the analogue copy process over the digital copy process simply because it is inferior
It is not surprising tho since we like our signifiers to be anchored, the pure anarchy of the post-modern sign system is very uncomfortable to go back to Mike's post. I'm way over my head here...
1 Member(s) liked this post
2 Member(s) liked this post
Check this out (the last paragraph):
Review Nikon D2H
You should really check out his gymnastic images.
1 Member(s) liked this post
Of course, the other problem is that the frame Mike has chosen to use to define photography is a subjective one. Most of the concepts in art criticism are problematic because they are never tested--and yes, you can test these. And these concepts are stuck in time. And Collingwood (and Joyce) with this concept of being able to divide art into proper and improper types is hugely problematic.
in the photochemical process the medium is altered. in the digital process the medium is not altered, it is an electron counter that resets each time.
I think you are having a film -etch-a-sketch problem.
but yes I am sentimental how nice of you to notice.
that said- just this week I worked on a job and we had digital capture and there was a macbook with a new retina display, and also an eizo side by side- I wanted the eizo so I could see what I was familiar with and the retina is a new thing for me so I don't trust it.
everyone preferred the retina- mainly contrast of course, it is like the iphone in that it makes things look "sexy"- but the other part of it and i think this gets back to the feelings we get when we look at film under a loupe or examine a print closeup, the retina starts to get to the detail level you need for the eye to really fascinate on an object.
pixel peeping has all those negative connotations but there is a connection i think to that and this object-fascination, it is great to look at a digital capture at 100% on screen, it is a pleasure of looking.
The retina screen is much better in that regard, it feels more luxurious to the eye and there is an emotional pleasure in that, so I think we are starting to see the possibilities of digital capture to offer the same satisfaction as the analogue looking process.
Articles today in the news also about the Hobbit in 48fps and the new Star Trek in imax 3d screened for the press also hint at this new digital pleasure in looking, the result of better processes.
Of course I am nostalgic and sentimental about film, but I know I am judging digital against it and digital is very immature in comparison, we are just beginning to see what it can do.
There is a bit of a "digital paradox" in the sense that film may be a more honest reproduction of an object, but digital is a more true reproduction-of-a-reproduction of an object.
There is nothing wrong with loving a process. I loved running my color darkroom and dye-tranfer printing. There is nothing wrong about being sentimental. I just don't find it a very useful position.
It is true that the raw file is a unique set of data, and no two raw files will be identical- the smallest fraction of a second will produces a different raw file, even if you just figure the random noise level in the sensor.
And both analogue and digital process are latent in the sense that both require "development" to reveal the image, ie, dev or debayering.
I've never really thought of a data set as an object but I guess it is if you consider one quality of objects is that they are discrete.
Most all of the arguments encountered from people that are fanatical about making digital and film equivalent mediums (or counterparts) stems precisely from digital's position as a simulation of mediums. Digital is always saying, "Hey, I'm just as good as film or even better." But it's never trying to be it's own thing. In other words, it's always seeking to emulate, equal, or better an already defined medium but never attempting to define itself. Paradoxically, that lack of definition is exactly what defines it! It's a simulation, a chameleon and an imitator. It is a distinct medium and it does operate by it's own rules. But it can never admit that to itself because that would expose it for the imposter that it is.
Lots of things to think about - I agree that it is hard to see data as an object and to love that object in the same way as the film/photograph object.
That started me thinking, what other "data sets" or symbol groups do we fascinate over and love? Books. Books as objects can be themselves art objects but you can read Tolstoy in a cheap paperback and that really is an art experience in a data set- it all "develops" in your head. And we love those experiences. So if we get over the abstract/concrete thing then you could see the raw file as the photographic "novel" of reality.
We can try and think about it like this....If an author were to write, "John is angry," then that would be similar to a literal or direct representation of John's anger. However, if an author were to write, "John's face is red, his blood is boiling, and he's stomping his feet," then that would be a non-literal or indirect representation of John's anger. Both sentences written by the author are representative, but one is literal/direct while the other is non-literal/indirect.
These examples of representation in literature can be compared to the differences in representation between digital imaging and film photography. Film, because of it's power to directly represent, is similar to the first sentence "John is angry." On the contrary, digital, because of it's power to indirectly represent, is more similar to the second sentence. Which type of representation would be more interesting in literature? Well, most folks would probably say the second because the first is so literal that it's boring. This is the key to understanding the proper use of digital in representation. It operates best when it is non-literal because that is precisely how it sparks the imagination to it's fullest. Usually, when people attempt to use digital to directly represent then it becomes boring with an audience.
The real power of digital imaging is it's talent for non-literal representation. This is what makes it so good at creating fictions (iconic signs) and fantasies (symbolic signs.) On the other hand, film has a talent for literal representation and that's what makes it better suited for non-fiction (indexical signs.)
1 Member(s) liked this post
David Hockney's view: Photoshop is boring
Interesting point of view, and I follow him a long way here.
I don't care what gear I have.
Things I sell: http://www.shutterstock.com/sets/413...html?rid=611052 Member(s) liked this post
Interesting from a guy that makes art with an iPad drawing program.
Kodak must have had a horrendous overstock of fixer 8-years ago when they stopped producing the stuff as it is still in stock:
I am glad he is not into bondage. WTH?
Thanks, Jorgen, lots of food for thought.
And David Hockney has a charming sense of humour.
I had a good laugh.
I hopped into the time machine the other day and went back to 80,003 BC. I got to talking to Grog about his cave paintings.
He said he heard of someone trying out a new crushed rock colored pigment on wood. He didn't think it would catch on.
Someone then drew a line in the sand.
Who needs cameras anyway, when there are pencils...
Timeless - Drawing - YouTube
I envy painters, good painters, I wish I could do it, but I can't so photos is my choice of expression.
The biggest issue film photogs face is they are dependent on manufacturers to make the film. Processing not such a problem as you can even develop film in coffee if you need to. Film cameras can be home made, could film be home made?
Photographers had careers coating their own plates in the field because they had to be shoot wet. I can't see why anyone dedicated enough can't do the same (in fact a few do today). When Kodak started coating their own film, they did not need 20th technology. I am sure someone could come up with a air knife in their basement.
Interesting article, and worrying if it's true:
Why Do Photo Contest Winners Look Like Movie Posters? ‹ PhotoShelter Blog
This idea that photography must be fully untouched to be authentic is kind of unrealistic. next would be to use only unaltered raws, no JPEG´s, the next would be to have no firmware corrections in the camera at all, usage of wide angles will be prohibited as this is unnatural, same with teles........ where to start where to end. And as if negatives have never been altered by darkroom tricks to show better results.........(I´m not speaking of content changing composings....)
I see your point, Stefan, but it's a very difficult area. Who decides when a photo goes from being documentation to propaganda? Photographers have been fired in the not too distant past for stepping over that line. Some of the winners in the World Press Photo of the Year contest seems to be edited well beyond what would have been acceptable just a decade ago. One doesn't have to remove or add objects or people to alter the message of a photo.
There is no such thing as an "objective- neutral" Photo ! The subject you photograph,
the moment you shoot, the framing you chose, the perspective you take
EVERYTHING is an expression of your personal opinion and experiences.
So to draw a line is simply nonsubstantial - by definition........
To limit the personal expression by declaring this for good and others for bad is
a try to get an objective look that does not exist. Whoever tells you a photo
is objective is probably putting the most propaganda on you.
Always be careful if people tell you they won´t lie at you........ :-)
Those are the worst !
Satellite imagery is rather objective.
Photographs done by people are not in that choices are made, as Stephan pointed out. Certainly processing has been part of journalism for a long time. Eugene Smith and HCB certainly pushed the look of their images. And look at Herb Riis book How the Other Half Lives from 1890 has artificial lighting and staged scenes.
Now, I am not saying staging is good, but nothing has really changed. Photographers are in control of their craft and they use that control. This has always been true. The more things change...
I agree with both of you, but with the tools available now, the effects can be made much stronger and within minutes of an event. Maybe that doesn't matter either, but I still find it scary because these images reach millions or billions of people within minutes. The immediate impression becomes very strong. Although technology has made the process faster, the human brain is still the same old.