An exercise in self-gratification



This article is written by a relatively recent devotee of photography (about 9 years ago), who like most converts tends towards bigotry about the subject. Briefly, having always had a camera, I suddenly decided to make photography my hobby. A few years later I discovered black & white photography & got really bigoted about that, even to the extent of calling the practice of colouring prints with dyes, painting & not photography.

The great & good tell us that digital imaging is photography. The Royal Photographic Society accept it as same, Camera Club organisations do likewise. So, what possible grounds can I have for vehemently disagreeing with this?

I do not pretend to be an expert in photographic history, therefore the following is somewhat simplistic. Photography, from its earliest inception, has been a process of producing an image by allowing light to pass onto film coated with a chemical solution which was sensitive to same. The negative thus produced then being used to produce a positive by allowing light to pass through it onto material coated with another chemical solution, which again was sensitive to light. During the above processes, a certain amount of adjustment being possible to make the finished image different to that which was photographed. This positive could then be treated in a number of ways to change its appearance, such as toning with a variety of chemicals which would cause a reaction in the emulsion forming the finished image.

When photography first appeared it produced the same reaction in many painters as digital imaging produces in many? photographers. It was regarded as an upstart way of producing what they were doing with their skill. There was also probably an element of fear that it would jeopardise their livelihood.

Digital Imaging, or what I choose to call pixelography has some parallels with photography. A finished image is produced which can be adjusted in the computer, by changing the appearance of individual pixels on the computer screen, to obtain virtually any image the producer wishes to achieve. Its original can be a photograph made by the person involved, or, by anybody else. It does not even need to be a photograph. A painting, or drawing, can be scanned into a computer & then altered, or, mixed with any other image. The finished product is then printed out via a computer printer. Whether it be an ink-jet, or, laser printer, what it is doing is placing ink or toner onto paper. The parallels that I referred to above, lie in the adjustment, whilst the methods are different, in principle they are the same. However, that is the only similarity between the two processes. Pixelography is not using light, or chemicals to produce, or change, its final image. Instead it is using electrons in the computer to achieve it. This is not photography any more than photography is drawing, or painting, therefore the finished image is not a photograph, instead it is a computer print, pixelgram, or whatever else you want to call it.

Having said all this, I can see ways in which a computer could be used as a tool in photography. Given sufficient advance in scanner & printer technology, it would become possible to produce a photographic negative, then a positive from same, using photographic methods. This finished print, could then be scanned into a computer & adjustments carried out which were impossible by photographic methods, eg; removing telegraph wires. The image would then be reversal printed onto transparent film, this then being used as the negative to produce a normal photographic contact print. I see this as a normal photographic progression, in the same way that the introduction of enlargers allowed the use of smaller film formats & obviated the necessity for all images to be produced by printing out contact prints.

In conclusion, I am not trying to say that there is anything inherently wrong with pixelography, merely that it is not photography, and should not be placed in the same context as photographs.

Bruce Carter........... 17/03/98

Your comments would be appreciated


Bruce Carter, FZPS