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June 2009 Archives

June 14, 2009

Can digital photography be made art?

We have reached a certain point here in the history of western art, where history seems to be somewhat insignificant, or perhaps less significant. My training in the arts, had a heavy emphasis on what had gone before it [In all the arts]. The path was/is to an extent linear, but not in a mathematical/chronological sense. The great/new artists of the past, tried/explored/created something that had not been seen/heard before; more importantly though 'borrowing' and sometimes even outright theft was not uncommon, that, 'theft' was then re-invented.

Now we are so far down this slightly linear path albeit curved, twisted, and modulating, path that Modernist Art History is hardly taught at art school.

We can give beginners directions about how to use a compass, we can tell them stories about our exploration of different but possibly analogous geographies, and we can bless them with our caring, but we cannot know the unknown and thus make sure a path to real discovery"1
It is as if the past prior to the turn of the century, the one before the last, matters not a fig.

What then for young people starting out? Who do they emulate, copy ridicule; other post modernists? Any wonder few people feel they understand modern art.

For me, part of this whole history of art, was the materials, concepts, & techniques explored by all artists, often in combination of all three. Not like the idea alone, as Duchamp said:-
"I am interested in ideas, not merely in visual products"2
However; for some myself included, it is difficult to reconcile the quality of brush strokes, in a Caravaggio to the day to day rumblings/ramblings of my own highly digitalised life. Image making in particular using a camera, has become a single point perspective about the moment. Millions worldiwde are participating. With so many 'creators' is anyone a 'consumer', should there be, will there ever be again, does there need to be?

Part of the difficulty in trying to be both an artist and a business person is this: You make a picture because you see something that is beyond price; then you are to turn and assign to your record of it some cash value. If the selling is not necessarily a contradiction of the truth in the picture, it so close to being a contradiction—and the truth is always in shades of grey—that you are worn down by the threat.3

If 'art' is materials, processes, concepts, techniques, how then does digital photography one of the least tactile processes known in the history of art, fit in to this equation? Given that the process of Digital photography is even more removed from the average person's ability to control and manipulate results to match their own emotions and ideas does this make it less of an art-form. Or does it? Photographic prints are still able to be manipulated to match vision and emotion, by more people more easily and more often than in the history of the medium so far. But do people want to, how many stories can be told ultimately? Stories that are expressed iin a unique way; exploiting medium's unique characteristics?

For me Digital photography, is the most cerebral it has ever been. It far more removed from the tactile wet process than many imagine, music too has always been non-tactile, in the sense of appreciating it and responding to it. Therefore being non-tactile like, music, does this make digital photography more art like, only with it's own rules in terms of speed.

In my own mind, I keep coming back to speed; digital almost instant, comparatively speaking. For many it is the 'act' of making an image that is paramount, eg barb, and pw-pix. Caravaggio had no say in the idea of speed, each brush stroke was deliberate and carefully considered.

For digital photography to real art, modern art, it needs to be freed from the constraints of it's birth and development in the last century, it needs to embrace the speed and connectivity that the internet allows, the culture jamming that is being conducted out there as well as loose any connection to the idea that it alludes to truth, or evidence.4

References

  1. Roberts Adams, 'Why People Photograph' ISBN 0-89381-597-7, pg 39,
  2. thinkexist.com
  3. Roberts Adams, 'Why People Photograph' ISBN 0-89381-597-7, pg 43
  4. For a more detailed and complex exploration of this idea, see Fred Ritchin's 'After Photography' ISBN 978-0-393-050240

June 16, 2009

Scanner Camera

I recently began experimenting with alternatives to traditional digital capture. I'd thought about using a scanner somehow to capture images, and some digging around on the interent produced some good results. The main one however, used a simple cheap magnifying glass lens with cardboard apertures and a sliding focus arrangement. I figured I could do better, and with numerous 35mm lenses lying around, I figured I could get something more manageable together. So here's how I made these images.

I used a Canon, flatbed scanner I had lying around, one that I use for low end webscans. I bought some black foamcore, and scrounged up an old 35mm lens.

I cut 4 strips of the foam core to fit the scanner each being 50mm high, and the approprite width and length to fit the scanner. I then cut a piece the same size as the platten of the scanner. This had a hole that held the lens in place. I used the ever useful gaffer tape to construct it.

It took some time to realise that, I had incorrectly calculated the focal length of the lens I'd used. So by modifying the piece that held the lens so that it sat lower inside the 'housing', I had more luck.

#6 Mod #1, 45mm lens board f16 hyperfocal
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Exposure and focus still seemed a little hit and miss, so I set up a studio arrangement, and had more luck, but of course the platten of the scanner is more than A4 in size, which puts it in the realm of an 8 x 10 inch camera, in terms of square area of light capture. This seemed a bit of a waste, and eposures anf focus were stil not at an optimum.

My final experiment was to use a Box Brownie Camera, attached to the scanner, this yielded pretty good results too. Ultimatley though, I'd like to get my hands on an 8 x 10 camera lens, say around 300mm and try to utilise the entire platten.

The last idea came from the scanner project page.

June 29, 2009

Online Book Publishing

Blurb now allows you to upload a pdf for publication. Using their own templates is part of the process, but I always found their software slow and clunky on my computer.

And it is rumoured that the colour quality is better from them compared to lulu.com, too.

So look out.

About June 2009

This page contains all entries posted to musings from the photographic memepool [the shallow end] in June 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2009 is the previous archive.

July 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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