ePHOTOzine editor, Peter Bargh, explains why he doesn't have a problem with digital imaging being the replacement to photography as we knew it.
Since the age of 15 I've been dabbling in almost every kind of photography. Started out in retail, then into freelance and commercial photography, finally following a career in journalism, working for Practical Photography and then launching the first digital imaging magazine, I went on to create ePHOTOzine.
Every so often someone on the ePHOTOzine forums pops the question “Is photography art? It’s a very emotive subject and our moderators are always on hand ready to remove expletives and abusive comments. The trouble is, as all the photography magazines have found out for years, art and photography evoke passionate feelings and extremely strong views. This has become more prevalent since the rise of digital technology.
I have a view I’m about to share which will no doubt cause upset to those photographers who like to shoot natural!
As the person responsible for introducing the first digital technique magazine into the UK (Digital PhotoFX) I was already on rocky ground when I filled the first few issues with those pictures that make people cringe. You know - Venetian masks superimposed on backdrops of gondolas or flowers with the find edges filter to create etched effects.
Well, for me, that was, and digital still is, a very exciting product.
On ePHOTOzine we get all kinds of digitally manipulated imagery, and we also get photographers complaining that it's “not photography”. Well it isn’t, as such.
Let’s go back in time, way before photography and look at landscapes as a subject. Painters were either good or not. There were those who took a scene and were clever enough to replicate what they saw using oil or water colour. The scene would look as close to reality as it could. There were those who could take the scene and, through imagination, make the lighting more imposing, the colours more vivid or the items in the scene more visually balanced than those in reality. And then there were those who created a pile of tosh.
Then photography was invented and it changed everything. If we take our three stereotypes from above, the first could recreate a scene just as he/she had done when painting, but with much more ease. The second could add filters, use a spot meter or artifical light to expose for subjective tones or apply some darkroom treatment to make the scene better, but for most of this group photography took away their total creative control. The third could, providing the camera was understood, create a scene almost as good as the first group.
So in my view the people affected most when photography arrived where the creative artists, because their photos would rarely be too far from reality, unless they had incredible darkroom skills, so their vivid imagination was bottled up.
And then along came digital. The first can still do as they always have, the second can go wild with their imagination and the third will produce the sort of shots that make you cringe.
Back to me. My mother was a painter, she painted street scenes and pets and did, to her ability, paint as close to reality as possible. Apart from one occasion where she painted a portrait of David Bowie for me and removed the bracelet he was wearing. She thought it should only be worn by a women! She would have enjoyed digital!
I wanted to paint like my mother, but didn’t have the skills. I took up photography but couldn’t photograph the objects/scenes I could see in my mind. I tried doing the creative darkroom work, but still couldn't get what I wanted. And then I found Photoshop. Sadly, in the early days, a machine to run Photoshop cost thousands of pounds, but these days it's totally affordable and allows those dreams to come true.
For the first time, photography became, in my mind, real art! We've just gone from painting with oils, to painting with light, to painting with pixels. Although I do agree with views that a lot of crap is passed off as art, but that happens in the canvas world too.