Photography in Flux
Brandenburg goes on to say that digital photography removes the threat of human error in the darkroom, bad processing chemicals and general mishaps with film, such as leaving it sitting in the sun (qtd in Potts).
While there are numerous proponents of digital photography, there are also those who still prefer the traditional method of film. For some, crossing the frontier into digital can be a painful segregation from the established and proven techniques of conventional film photography. But there are reasons other than personal bias for clinging to the time-honored practice.
For one thing, a photographer needs to know his or her “digital equipment and software very well, and that process does not happen overnight” (Meyer). It takes a great deal of knowledge and persistent to become fully indoctrinated with the capabilities of digital technology. Complicating the matter is the fact that new hardware and software is released almost as quickly as old versions can be learned. Given the amount of time serious photographers invest in their profession, there is a “net gain of zero” when
balancing the advantages afforded by digital technology versus the time it takes to work out all of the associated quirks and technical problems (Meyer).
Yet, perhaps the most glaring problem with digital photography, many professionals feel, is that it shortchanges the highly refined skill of photography as a craft and an art form. Incidentally, “photography has always had a hard time maintaining its artistic credentials” (Smurthwaite). The power of anyone to edit images via digital technology undermines the “concept of the photographer as a trained, honest, and knowing eye” as a result of “the frequent and indiscriminate use of computer manipulation” (Smurthwaite). Considering these statements certainly seems to raise a question of just how our society defines “art.” Does computer alteration infringe on the parameters of photography as an art form? Perhaps that is something to bear in mind.
In a similar vein, Geoffrey Batchen writes in his editorial from Aperture that using a computer to change an image creates dishonesty between the viewer and the photographer.
This is achieved, he says, because “the reality the computer presents to us is virtual rather than actual, a mere simulation of the reality guaranteed by the photograph” (Batchen 48). The purpose of the photograph, Batchen argues, is to provide a truthful image of a moment in time, and using computers to alter that snapshot discredits a photograph’s inherent purpose. Moreover, what further separates digital technology from its traditional counterpart seems “to be that, whereas photography claims a spurious objectivity, digital imaging remains an overtly fictitious process” (Batchen 48).
Batchen holds the opinion that while all forms of photography require some degree of intervention, the digital format is based on complete user interference.
This argument contributes to his idea that digital intercession strips away the important function of truth that photography is supposed to represent.
Clearly, there is no argument that can be made that tackles all considerations for or against the use of digital technology in photography. Joseph Ippolito outlines a few additional points to weigh on this issue, as described in his book, Understanding Digital Photography (60):
Pros: With digital photography, there is: Cons: But, there are trade-offs:
No more film developing or waiting on a lab to process (and scratch) the film More complicated to produce basic prints No more scratches on negatives or slides Requires a lot of expensive, technical apparatus to facilitate the processing and
printing of images No more dust on prints Digital images cannot viewed with the
naked eye No more dust in film holders An expensive camera is required to produce high-quality enlargements No more need for specialized darkroom facility, and no more chemicals on hands or clothes anymore.
In addition, it appears that no amount of arguing will keep one group of people from actively pursuing digital technology and its expansive promise, nor will it keep the other group from indulging in the secure and laborious traditional methods.
The medium of photography as a means of expression appears to be headed in two directions. But, most professionals are confident that it will nevertheless remain an important vehicle for the transmission of ideas and creativity. And of course, when considering the future, there are several new questions that come to mind. Michael Sand, speaking in an editorial in Aperture, makes note of the issues looming on the horizon. He
says that “in the coming years, image makers and consumers will face a whole range of challenges arising from digital-imaging technology—from new ways of seeing, to undetectable alterations, to the increasingly complicated matters of ownership and copyright” (3). Obviously, there are many issues that surround digital photography, but there is no question that its place in the modem world has been secured. And regardless of what form it takes, “a significant number of picture makers will continue to embrace the expressive potential of photography, its unique capacity to describe, interpret, and interact with the world” (Davis 319).