RE: Actual photograph

From: Joe Smigiel ^lt;>
Date: 03/17/05-08:28:07 AM Z
Message-id: <>

>>> 03/16/05 10:12 PM >>>
I think its a matter of semantics...
Bob Schramm<<

Hi Bob,

Yes. I think a large part of this philosophical discussion about what
is photography is precisely about the meaning and interpretation of the

The reason I have persisted in this discussion is because I feel that
Photography is being redefined, and in my opinion erroniously so, as
digital at the expense of conventional silver halide and historic
processes. Now, one could pooh-pooh that trend as being something not
to worry about, justified as technology marches on, etc., and my
reaction as, well, reactionary and very old school, academic, etc., but
I think there is a real danger in terms of potential loss of materials.
Witness the reduced availability and production of certain films and
papers, while at the same time the popular photographic literature has
swung over to being primarily about digital capture and output devices.

The part that I find scary is that the printmaking aspect of photography
is somehow morphing into encompassing primarily inkjet prints and other
things which, IMO, have much less intrinsic value because they lack the
handmade aspects that Dick, myself, and others have commented on. I
believe there is a growing acceptance by galleries to label such prints
as "photographs" and, if calling them photographs isn't bad enough, they
are also trying to call them things which lead the uninformed audience
that they are getting a traditional photograph (ala "carbon print" or
"platinum giclee" or "pigment print") when they are getting a different
type of printed image, more mechanical and less handcrafted. (Perhaps
conventional and alternative photographic processes will eventually and
finally be accepted as truly valid art forms rather than "some bastard
stepchild of the Arts" when "digital photography" totally captures
hearts of the greater unwashed. I'd say that would be "a good thing,"
but I'm afraid they try to lock me up.)

Scarier still is the perception that Photography now is that image on
the cell phone or the LCD/CRT on your desk. To me, there is a
difference between being a camera operator and a photographer. The
latter denotes a professional artist or imaging professional and
printmaker, and I want to keep that distinction alive. There is also
a difference between a picture and a print and a photographic print and
a lithograph and I want to keep that distinction also.

Several years ago I was involved in a committee at school to develop
"New Media" courses and programs. One of the vice-presidents of the
college in charge of "technology" seriously asserted that we could
provide inexpensive point-and-shoot 2-megapixel cameras to students in a
proposed digital photography course and have them output their work to
the computer screen or color xerox and that would be all we needed to
run the course and everyone would be doing "photography." That's scary
to me because that person held the purse strings.

While I won't go into details, I will say that I and others were
successful in convincing the committee that Photography encompassed so
much more than web graphics and I also designed, implimented and taught
a course in Digital Photography for a year at the college. I approached
it as a Fine Art Printmaking course. So, I'm not against inkjet prints
or digital cameras or scanners, I just think they fall under a broader
category than Photography, that there is a great danger in not
redefining these new technologies properly, and that the output should
be called what it is. Is there really something wrong with calling the
output a "pigment inkjet print" or "dye-sublimation print" ? Call them
what they are.

I'll shut up now.

Received on Thu Mar 17 08:26:34 2005

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