In the previous post, I tried to give you an idea about the setting, now I will try to address specific arguments leveled against digital photography.
Too many photographs does not make bad art
The unstated starting point of these arguments, I think, stem from the proliferation of digital cameras and the extraordinary number of photographs produced and displayed, rather than the “value” of the art whatever that may mean. Yes, digital photography created an avalanche of photographs, but it is the information technology that made them visible. People have been taking photographs in very large numbers and confining them into an album under the best circumstances, or more typically, storing them in the old shoe boxes for many, many years. It is the advent of the Internet and many photograph hosting sites that gave digital photography the “in-your-face” appearance. I have been doing digital photography for more than a decade using the best available technology I could afford. So have millions of others. But all this work remained in “digital shoe boxes” in our hard disks or CD media. It would be a grave mistake to equate the proliferation of digital photographs with the proliferation of photographic art. Fine art photography begins and ends with a vision in the mind of the photographer. If those uninformed individuals will look at a fine photograph, admire it, and then raise their had to say “you must have a good camera and a powerful computer”, the best response will be to look at them, smile and nod. I am still looking for that “great photograph” button on my computer many claim that it exists.
Ability to create more than one copy is not limited to digital photography
I have heard this so many times it has almost become a mantra: “you can print so many copies, therefore it is not original art.” Well, we do know that wet-darkroom photographers can, and do make a perfect print, photograph it and print many more copies from that perfect negative. Many who argue against digital photography as an art form (I am not arguing by the way, against wet darkroom where I have spent my share of time) do not know of this practice or simply overlook it. The amount of work that goes into the master file from which many prints can be made also eludes those who seem to know “the button” to push to create the perfect digital file. I have prints of digital images where I spent several days on creating the master file (simply because I do not know “the button” to push or where to click.)
A related misconception is that because we can print many copies of the master file we actually do this. We don’t! Why would I print many copies of the same file where I can produce it on demand with freedom to change my mind on the presentation. I have printed many photographs multiple times but rarely in exactly the same way. I may change the paper I use from luster to matte, interpret the colors or emphasize different parts of the image. Furthermore, let us be very clear on this, it is impossible to have multiple copies of “an original” that are all the same. Think about it, they are on separate pieces of paper, they are not the same, made with different drops of inks, and so on. This is analogous to saying “don’t photograph sunsets (sunrise, wild life, fill in your subject here) anymore, they are all the same.” Are they, really?
Digital photography is less labor intensive
Oh, really! And why should it matter anyway? Using roll film is less labor intensive than using wet plates, but I don’t see the same people who level this argument, an uninformed one I must say, against digital photography coating their glass plates and carrying their wooden cameras to photo shoots. Nor should they. The only thing I ask from these people is not to equate the time spent with the artistic processes with the quality of the work produced. Furthermore, they should try producing digital work first to find out how time consuming it is before jumping to conclusions.
Now, be honest, don’t you know artists who may buy a cheap pair of sandals and a tube of crazy glue and glue the bottoms of the sandals with a title like “Imprisoned” or something like that? (Don’t go out to produce this art, it’s already mine!) Do we dare question the quality of their art based on the simplicity of the process or the money they spent on the materials? Anyone can buy the sandals and the crazy glue and stick the shoes together. But the idea, the original art came from the mind of an artist to express an idea, which is the foundation of art, any art.
One more installment coming soon.