Saturday, April 11. 2009
Going digital implies saying goodbye to the 20th century art of photography and will imply the death of photography as we know it.
- Erwin Puts, Death of Photography
Published author Erwin Puts, probably the world's foremost Leica expert, is a philosopher of photography. His weblog pulls no punches and rambles at times, but is sure to provoke thought. Some of Erwin's views on digital vs film:
Current camera models are very complex tools with an overdose of technology and options. The modern consumer starts to rebel and wants a reduction of the high-tech phalanx. One approach by the industry is to add smarttech to the products: in fact this is a shielding technique where smart filters are used to guess the needs of the user and suppress all options that are not required.
Even the most sophisticated and automated metering system will shift exposure values from the normal (average) to plus or minus one stop, one and a half at most. This range can be covered by experience too. And a mental tonal analysis will also assist in selecting the right composition....Master these and you will no longer need a 50+ matrix computer assisted exposure metering system. And as an additional bonus: doing it yourself is fun and places you where you belong: in the driver's seat. Become a photographer again!
A simple camera then will help you focus on the real challenges in photography and in mastering these, you will be more satisfied than when simply employing a computer in the camera.
Performance per se is not all there is. There is an inherent sense of esthetics and purity in creating quality imagery with simple means based on cutting-edge materials and the best optics in existence, and above all, the photographer can be proud of what he is doing for a living or for fun and pleasure.
- Erwin Puts, Why should we want to use a Leica CRF?*
*CRF stands for Compact Range Finder
The core of digital imaging is not the convenience of being able to see the picture immediately (here the Polaroid showed the way), nor the fact that you need no photographic knowledge to make a picture (the Kodak Brownie or Agfa Box were foolproof), nor the fact that digital imaging is cheap (that is just a matter of economics and calculations!). No the true character of digital imaging is its virtual character.
The one-to-one correspondence that exists between the moment of making the picture and the reality that is being recorded is lost. The digital picture has no longer any direct relationship to the scene that has been recorded. The file can be manipulated at every stage of the digital processing of the file content. And the making of a digital picture is very easy. In fact you can make a thousand pictures on one gigabyte memory stick, remove all pictures and start over again, and you learn by looking at the pictures on the screen. The mental state of the photographer then has to be totally different. The famous pre-visualisation of Ansel Adams and the importance of having a photographers eye in order to see the scene photographically are redundant. The switch from a filmbased camera to a digital camera is a fundamental change in the mental state of the photographer and style of picture taking.
The two basic traits of digital photography: the vast and limitless manipulation of the original file after and even during exposure and the mental state that you do not have to focus on creating the best image in a split second and so do not need to bother with photographic technique will change the world of photography beyond recognition. The bestselling imaging product nowadays is the mobile phone with integrated digital camera and there is much more interest in a smart design than in image quality. The world of digital imaging is focused on image manipulation and instant visual communication. The world of photography is/was focused on the documentary picture and the fixing of the image. The new style of imaging has its advantages. People take pictures in a more relaxed way as they do not need to worry about cost or technique. But the art of fixing the shadows and the expertise to see beyond the obvious and superficial will be gone.
- Erwin Puts, Death of photography or why the concept of 'digital photography' is doomed to die soon
From the dawn of photography, its true character has been defined as the mechanical reproduction of reality. A picture showed reality as it was at the moment of pressing the shutter. A picture has authentic content, even if we all agree that the viewer’s interpretation may add a third dimension of emotion and context. Cees Nootebom, a well-known Dutch writer has written that the photo-album with family pictures acts as a vehicle for the preservation of memories. A snapshot is always true: it is a fetish that can recall the past and every frozen moment....All these feelings and thoughts can be invoked by looking at a simple snapshot because we know that the picture is not manipulated and is a direct representation of reality. The process and mechanism of chemical photography ensures this non-manipulative character of the picture.
Of course there have been photographers who sandwiched several negatives or manipulated negatives in the darkroom to create new images. But this approach has always seen an outsider status. Straight photography has been the medium's backbone. With the coming of digital capture, this backbone has been broken. The camera no longer provides the rock solid representation of reality, but has become the supplier of raw material in the format of a computer file.
Just as in the past painting was relieved from the necessity to depict real scenes and could become a very personal and subjective medium, digital imagery will become a very subjective medium....Digital imagery will increasingly be seen as a construction and the photographer (whatever the name: it may eventually become digital artist or digipainter) as the engineer or designer or originator of the image....The maker will predominate, not the picture. I see this change as fundamental, as a true paradigm shift, not as the simple change of a technical process. One may attach the label of ‘photographer’ to the image maker of the future. That is fine with me. But insisting that the word ‘photography’ should be used for a totally new concept and culture of image making, is a sign of conservatism in order not to accept the profound changes that are imminent.
- Erwin Puts, The changing character of photography in the age of the electronic media
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