Saturday, 18 September 2010

Essay: The Paradoxes of Digital Photography

An extract from an interesting essay about the digitisation of photographic
processes by Lev Manovich:
...Digital photographs function in an entirely different way from traditional
photographs. Or do they?  Shall we accept that digital imaging represents a
radical rupture with photography? Is an image, mediated by computer and
electronic technology, radically different from an image obtained through a
photographic lens and embodied in film? If we describe film-based images
using such categories as depth of field, zoom, a shot or montage, what
categories should be used to describe digital images? Shall the phenomenon
of digital imaging force us to rethink such fundamental concept as realism
or representation?

In this essay I will refrain from taking an extreme position of either fully
accepting or fully denying the idea of a digital imaging revolution. Rather,
I will present the logic of the digital image as paradoxical;  radically breaking
with older modes of visual representation while at the same time reinforcing
these modes. I will demonstrate this paradoxical logic by examining two
questions: alleged physical differences between digital and film-based
representation of photographs and the notion of realism in computer
generated synthetic photography.

The logic of the digital photograph is one of historical continuity and
discontinuity. The digital image tears apart the net of semiotic codes, modes
of display, and patterns of spectatorship in modern visual culture -- and, at
the same time, weaves this net even stronger. The digital image annihilates
photography while solidifying, glorifying and immortalizing the photographic.
In short, this logic is that of photography after photography.

Excerpt from:
Lev Manovich, The Paradoxes of Digital Photography
First published in: 'Photography After Photography',
exhibition catalogue, Germany, 1995.
Read the full text: