I’d wager that most everyone has listened to or been a part of the Digital vs. Analog conversation. Today’s photographers are a part of a massive paradigm shift and that can be very disconcerting. The die-hard Analog fan cringes on the inside to think of how many people don’t know the meaning of the burn/dodge tools in Photoshop. I’d say most Digital fans just don’t understand the point of analog processes. Which brings me to my point: what is the point?
Photographic artists are having to ask themselves this question every day. I’m not referring to questions about shooting with a film camera or a digital camera, rather, my question is, what is the point of my work? What goal am I trying to achieve with my work; what kinds of conversations do I want to inspire? I think these types of content-based questions are becoming more and more necessary for anyone who is bothered by this process/output debate.
Wandering Bears is a collaborative community of creatives (say that three times fast) who recently began a debate series with Brighton Photo Fringe Open’11 on their facebook, twitter, and blog. They’ve been posing questions to the online community like, “Are we experiencing, in photography, an aesthetic homogeneity?” There are some interesting ideas floating around these questions and the responses seem to vary from dismissive to sincere. The most recent question was, “Can you imagine that a photographic artwork is for sale as a digital file and not as a print?” I think this is a intriguing concept.
Why can’t a photograph be a digital file only? Perhaps its context is only coherent in a digital format, like the work of Ignacio Torres. New artists are creating new forms of art with the digital format that expands far beyond silver on paper.
That being said, I submit that photographers who haven’t been utilizing the digital format to its fullest potential are going to begin exploring other options. When photographers begin asking themselves if digital is better than analog (or even physical) as an output, they’ve begun down the path so many others have discovered. Is the final form important? Can content also be found in the presentation and process?
Maybe it’s like a change in mindset or focus but I think that it’s not so much about becoming a master of one particular technique or, you know, process; that it’s more an idea generates a need, and then the artist follows through with the most logical material for that need.
All this worry about digital vs. analog and now the question of a print vs. a digital file feels like photographers are being forced to ask themselves if the medium/process is important. I think this is why we’ve seen a huge revival of 19th century processes and of printmaking, and why so many people are starting to hybridize mediums for their work. Yes, I’d say the content is still the most important part of making an image, but I think more and more people are realizing that the physicality of their work and the object produced is, or can be, a part of that content, a part that can augment ideas or detract from them.