The Challenges In Photography

People make way too much out of the digital versus film. The challenges in photography—focus, crop, shutter, aperture, and of course the biggest ones of all, the ones that really matter: what you actually point the camera at, and with what intelligence you use it… are all still there, completely unchanged.

Q&A with Paul Graham, PDN.


There Are 11 Comments On This Article.

  1. You are absolutely right. Film, digital, polaroid, pinhole, holga; all tools of the trade. I don’t think the early masters complained as much as our generation does over photographic technology. It’s all about what the eye sees and the reaction of you finger at the right time.

  2. Paul should read this article…

    He is right in one sense (the most obvious)… but missing a magnitude of difference in another sense. Sadly, most people miss the larger loss… the shift from an object to the virtual…. they look instead at the most simplest of comparisons. Of course there are clearly convenience gains but a price is paid as well… some of the magic is gone.

    “But as with each of our advances, something else is being lost. It is easy to think of the print and the digital image as the same thing, but they’re actually very different. Even as cameras tout their ever-increasing megapixels, nearly everything we view is projected out at 72 dots per inch, the standard resolution of a monitor. The resulting pictures are back-lit, vivid, and very easy to scan, so we hardly notice how hard it is to look into them. Your eyes move side to side, and you can easily gather all the information, but if you linger for a minute – an actual minute – you’ll notice that the screen doesn’t quite accept your gaze. A printed photograph, however – even when small, or blurry – has a way of letting you in. The paper surface is less aggressive than the liquid crystal one, so your eyes can roam around. The brightness of the pixel has a price: The illusory space of the photo is subtly reduced, along with its invitation to wander – or simply rest – inside it.”

    “The digital gems we hoard can number in the thousands, or even in the tens of thousands. Of course, the idea is that any and all of them could be printed, if an occasion were to arise. But what would that special day be like? Years pass, and it never comes. The prospect of printing them all out becomes unthinkable. The reason they never turn into objects is precisely because these photos have already served their purpose: At the party, which we wished would go on forever, we posed and we clicked. Then we showed each other the little LCD screen, and we were satisfied – the moment would last. (A little while later, we repeated the ritual.)”

    “…But Kahn’s haunting autochromes – which are cracked and worn, imperfect, fragile, and well traveled – should remind us that there is magic when the object itself, not just the occasion, is special.”

    • @dR, Surely that article is more about a preference in how to view a photo that how to make it? Paul Graham’s work does end up being viewed in a printed form, on gallery walls and in books.

  3. Yet an entire sub-industry has grown to teach people the tools of imaging. Rather ironic that Paul Graham’s statement is so obvious, yet seemingly few beginning photographers appear to believe it.

  4. Bravo! Exactly right.

    Especially if you consider the print quality of a magazine, it is a stretch for anyone to claim they can tell if an image was shot with film or digital. However, I CAN tell if the photographer caught the emotion of the moment regardless of film format or technology.

    A good photo is a good photo – PERIOD.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. It’s a bit like the Canon versus Nikon – I mean honestly, WHO cares. Just go out and take photos, whatever type of camera/medium you use.

  6. Donnar Party

    Last paragraph of the PDN interview:

    “. . . there’s a lot of blame to lay in the photography community itself, for the plain dumbness and lack of discrimination that burdens the medium. We should fight that and be smarter and more discriminating in what we do, say and promote. It’s an incredible medium, alive and direct, but we need to engage our hearts and minds in aspiring to make truly great work, that put any doubts beyond reach. ”

    Truer words have never been spoken.