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

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This page contains a single entry by s2art published on June 14, 2009 2:59 PM.

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