What is Photography?

In this day and age, we can do so much with the computer, with technology, with our digitized gadgets. But does that somehow take away in the simple beauty of what we do? Take photography, for example. With the growing extinction of film and the increasing popularity of digital cameras, have we lost something in the fine art of photography?

Today, Flickr is swarming with brilliant pictures taken with high-end point-and-shoots and digital SLRs, most of which were post-processed through the fantastic features of photoshop. And because of the seemingly unbounded capability of photoshop, we may forget the art of getting it right the first time. With photoshop, you can get your second chance. If the picture comes out crooked, that’s alright. Photoshop can fix it. If it comes out too dark, that’s alright. Photoshop can fix it. If the colors come out faded, that’s alright. Let photoshop enhance the contrast and even bring out colors that weren’t there to begin with. Just as long as the picture catches your eye.

I feel like photography nowadays is less about how you take the picture, and more about what you do with the picture after the click of the shutter. In my post Deserting Digital a couple weeks ago, I expressed my preference for film photography and it’s “authenticity.” Quoting from that post, I wrote that

I have this theory that film photographs are some how more “authentic” than digital. If a film photograph comes out astounding, then you know that the photographer was really quite something. You know that the colors, the composition, and the effects were all done right there at the moment. There are no extraneous color enhancing, error-reducing cropping, and fancy photoshop effects.

But now I think that it would be unfair of me to imply that film photographers are “more skilled” than digital photographers. I mean, before film photography, portraits and landscapes could only be done by the paint brush. And were painters set on a pedestal above photographers? Perhaps they were more respected in the initial introduction of photography. But today, we do not view photographic portraits to be inferior to portraits on canvases. Rather, we think of the introduction of photography as the birth of a new medium of art.

Maybe the introduction of digital photography is the same way. Maybe its different artistic focuses are what distinguishes it from film not only as two approaches to photography, but two different artistic mediums altogether. Maybe instead of adopting a sort of film vs. digital elitism, if you will, we should open our minds to the possibility of this new revolution in art.

In the end, I think it’s all about this open-minded basis of understanding, acceptance, and appreciation. Film photographers may frown upon digital photographers, deeming them to rely too much on post-shutter effects. And digital photographers may frown upon film photographers, deeming them to be close-minded and neglect the opportunities set forth by today’s technological innovations. But either way, we must appreciate that each medium—in this case, film and digital—has its own merit, its own challenges, its own unique characteristics.

Photography is a progressive form of expression shaped by the individuals of our society. Who is to say what it is and is not? And when we come down to it, what is photography, anyway?


~ by thechanster on 3:03 pm, Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

3 Responses to “What is Photography?”

  1. Its the same with the question – What is art?

    The answer: if the creator of the piece says its art then it is art. The relevant question is Is it good art?

    Irrespective of if it is film or digital, the relevant question is Is it a good photograph

    YesBut what do I know :)

  2. To me how you get there makes no difference except to your self.

  3. I use both film (medium format) and Digital.

    Many great ‘film’ images were seriously manipulated in the dark room. When a ‘master’ had been created the master print could then be photographed and reprinted.

    Many Photoshop processes are there to replicate the wet dark room and to adjust some of the issues digital produces, such as sensor issues.

    The great thing with film is that you slow down, but then the great thing with digital is that you can blast away. Tools for the job!

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