IS A PHOTOGRAPH?
This question was asked
in the Banbury Camera Club news-letter in September 2001.
What is a photograph?
Standing in a wet field, with your 5"x4" plate camera
and the cloth over your head, are you taking a photograph? Most would
Whirring your motor driven fully automated 35mm fashion statement
at a passing racing car, are you taking a photograph? Most would say
Pressing the button on your 3-megapixel digital camera, are you taking
a photograph? Some, probably most, would say yes!
Placing a flower on your flat bed scanner, scanning it.... are you
taking a photograph? What would you say?
Is photography a method of capturing images or just the process of
capturing images? Where will we stop, and should we ever do so?
With my stated bigotry, I found it
impossible to avoid responding to this question and thought, when
I started to write my reply, that I knew exactly what my opinion was.
Only to discover that the conclusions I expected to come to when I
started writing this piece, no longer applied by the time I had followed
the logic of what I was saying.
Standing in a wet field, with ones
5"x 4" camera and the cloth over ones head to focus the
image, is no different to using a fully automatic 35mm, or digital,
camera. The difference lies in the involvement. With the 5"x
4" process one is involving oneself more in the taking process,
there is more of an emotional attachment with what one is seeing,
basically because there are no extraneous influences distracting one
from what one is doing. I still believe that "photography",
capturing an image onto film, is inherently different from what I
choose to describe as "pixelography", which is capturing
an image in digital format. However, the two processes are mechanically
similar, in that they are both capturing images by the transmission
of light onto a medium, which can retain it in some form. They both
aim at producing a printed image that we call a photograph.
Scanning a flower into a computer
with a flat bed scanner. The initial reaction is to say "No,
of course that is not photography" but when one thinks about
it, where exactly is the difference. There is no camera involved,
but it is still capturing light, basically in the same way that a
digital camera does. So, if we, "photograph", or, "pixelgraph"
that flower, using a digital camera and then transmit the result into
a computer. Or, if we, "photograph", it onto film and then
scan the resulting negative into the computer. What are we doing that
is different? other than cutting out a phase in the process. Ever
since the invention of enlargers, people have been placing objects
onto photographic paper, turning on the enlarger light and then producing
a print from the resulting image. Where is the difference between
that and scanning the objects instead? All of these processes are
still aimed at producing a printed image, whether we choose to call
it a "photograph", or a "pixelgraph". Ever since
the invention of photography, people have been changing the appearance
of photographic prints by "painting" them with coloured
dyes. Whatever I may think about that, it is still accepted as a photograph.
I guess that there is no hard and fast answer to the question of what
constitutes a photograph, but I will settle for, "a mechanical
means of capturing light and transferring it into a viewable form."
Photography is simply a method of capturing images. Pixelography
is another one. Whatever the method, they will all come under the
broad heading of "photography" because their aim is to produce
something that we all recognize as a photograph.
No-one can say where we will stop in the evolvement of methods of
capturing images, certainly, whilst there is money to be made in making
the process simpler and easier, or in enhancing the end result, this
evolvement will continue.
What do other people think?
Bruce Carter. September 2001
comments would be appreciated