"Photography IS Film"

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by ReginaldSMith, Jun 19, 2018.

  1. ReginaldSMith

    ReginaldSMith Subscriber

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    "Photography is film." - Ken Rockwell

    When I first read that on his web site a few weeks ago I assumed he was trolling. But after the words rattled around a few weeks I began to see some solid logic to his declaration. He also likes to refer to negatives as "Real RAW."

    Is digital capture simply too different in all important ways to be called "photography?" After all, there was no photography before the invention of the use of light sensitive emulsions on copper. So, the word ('light' and 'graphics') was adopted to describe these chemical processes of capturing light into a latent image. The digital process does yield similar practical results, but the basis is entirely different, for example, non-chemical. I notice that in the world of motion-pictures there are two terms in common use: "film making" and "videography." Granted, these are often misapplied.

    In other forms of making pictures we have unique terms for each craft. Where painting is not the same a drawing, which is not the same as engraving or lithographing. A sensor and a piece of film certainly seem as different as a pencil and a paintbrush. Photoshop seems awfully different from a darkroom, in the way that scarping away linoleum seems different from slathering paint pigments on a piece of canvas.

    What about the craft itself? There can be no doubt that creating an image from a digital tool is very different than with film. The skills of operating a computer with complicated software have little in common with mixing the soup in a darkroom.

    Digitography?

    In a modern hospital with half dozens ways of looking inside your body, they don't call them all "X-rays" just because the output is an image. We have MRI, PET, X-Ray and I'm sure others I don't know. We make new names for new processes because the tools and crafts are different.

    The commonality of a "camera" is not enough. The camera obscura was used as an aid in painting well before photography. The chemical basis of one craft just isn't comparable to the software basis of another craft. AI is already beginning to overtake the digital camera systems, and before long, you will just send your drone off the porch with a list of subjects you'd like it to capture for you. Is that photography or computography?
     
  2. BradS

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    Yup. On this, I agree with Mr Rockwell.
     
  3. markjwyatt

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    We are creating images by gathering light and projecting it onto a light sensitive medium [typically using a glass/plastic lens, but a pinhole suffices]. Call it what you like- "visible light imaging" (with a possibility of near IR and UV) using the silver halide process, alternative chemical processes, or digital sensors. I have been involved with thermal imaging in the past. I do not call that photography, but it is using electromagnetic radiation well beyond the visible (typically 3000-5000 nm or 7000-14000 nm).

    In the end the results (digital vs. photo-sensitive emulsion) are pretty similar.
     
  4. Mainecoonmaniac

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    Photo=light. Graphy = to write. Pick your writing tool. What matters are the words and the work you produce.
     
  5. eddie

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    This is a flawed argument. There are subsets to the terms mentioned. Painting can be oil, acrylic, watercolor- all are painting, though. Drawing can be pencil, charcoal-both drawing, though. Lithos and engravings can be done on different surfaces- copper, stone.. What's wrong with defining digital and film as photography, while differentiating in the subset as in the other crafts?
     
  6. Saganich

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    Pixelgraphy. I agree as well. It diverges almost enough in process and equipment and less so in outcome. One can say it all falls under radiography... leaches to remote robotic surgery. I suppose digital imaging didn't adopt new names because the digital transition needed to take the baton from the past rather than wholly differentiate itself. Perhaps that was an error. When the technology diverges enough (3D telepresence) and 2d goes the way of flip phones new branding may be necessary. How far will selling go currently on the promise of what? More pixels, better HD, faster autofocus, automated PP? It will have to leave the past and dissociate with photography eventually.
     
  7. markjwyatt

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    Lot's of paintings were made with pinhole cameras (camera obscura). Is this pre-photography?
     
  8. BrianShaw

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    yawn...
     
  9. jnanian

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    as faras i am concerned,
    photography can be just a shadow it doesn't need to be "saved" in any way shape or form
    someone wants to save it there are ways using light to do that but the original image
    the shadow on the wall is a photograph before it is "saved for future use"
     
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    ReginaldSMith

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    The language moves towards more taxonomy and precision, not less. Notice how "artificial intelligence" diverged from mere "software." Take two persons, the film photographer and the digital image maker. Assume they are each advancing the state of the art of their respective art. The film guy is becoming deeply involved in chemistry and materials technology, the digital guy is becoming deeply involved in writing better algorithms. Those pursuits are unrelated. There's no cross pollination of the ideas. Why should they confuse the world by calling themselves the same thing?

    Doctor to the nurse: "Get me some pictures of this man's brain STAT!" See? The outcome is not important in clarification. It's the PROCESS - quite specifically - that the nurse needs to know before rushing the man to the wrong suite for X-rays, when the doctor really want a PET scan.
     
  11. nmp

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    I don't know what photography is. But I know what it is not - talking about what is and what is not photography.
     
  12. Ko.Fe.

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    It doesn't matter what Kenny will use film or digital. He is not photographer, never was, never will be, Rockwell is giftless in photography as art. He is gear reviewer with sometimes moronic conclusions in writing, but useful as gear review source Google finds first.
    If gear pictures are his, I respect him from this and for more less easy to find technical data in review body.
    This is it.
    Film or digital majority of users are giftless. But does it looks better on film? To me is. But film itself is nothing.
    To me photography is at the print. And it is art if it is analog, alternative print. Inkjet prints are not art, they are wallpaper, IKEA stamps. I do both inks and analog :smile:
     
  13. williaty

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    In point of fact, modern radiology departments have switched from film recording of X-rays to digital recording of X-rays. They still call them X-rays and the quality is a hell of a lot better. The difference you're looking for is X-ray vs CT/CAT scans. Both actually use X-rays passing through the subject. The difference is that things that get called X-rays are a single shot from one axis recorded on a 2D medium while CT scans are many shots recorded on many different axes through the subject assembled into a model in the computer, typically presented as a series of 2D slices of a 3D model. Source: my wife is a medical research imaging specialist.

    So the difference you bring up actually supports the argument that 2D digital capture of light is the same thing as 2D chemical capture of light. Both are photography.

    To address the question, both film and digital are photography because the differences between capture methods are unimportant to the final result. It doesn't matter how you did it, it only matters what you got.
     
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  15. Bob Carnie

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    double yawn
     
  16. Mainecoonmaniac

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    There are false authority figures that will claim they're the expert and will define what something is. Politicians that will define who is an American, who is Christian, who is a patriot, whether photography is art, and what is photography. I hope photographers are a creative lot where won't let some self-appointed expert limit and define what photography is. All my life, I've always question authority.
     
  17. eddie

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    Which is what creating subsets of the various crafts does. On a gallery wall, it is broken down to inkjet ... silver gelatin... platinum... salt... cyano... etc. Then, it can be further defined by the surface it's printed on. You can eventually get down to an exacting description of the work, but it is under a larger umbrella. Same with painting, drawing, sculpture.
     
  18. RattyMouse

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    Who is claiming that having this discussion is photography? No one here that I can see. So your point is....?
     
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    ReginaldSMith

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    That would be one way to describe the difference. Another way is that an X-ray doesn't require computers*, but CT scans do. In fact, it is primarily a software product. No one would say, "Get me a CT set of X-rays." The language matters, not just because someone wants to say the result is about the same, but because inherently the things have different requirements, processes, craft, technological paths, and so on. A bridge gets crossed. The lead designer of digital cameras at Fuji isn't studying chemistry. He's on the other side of the bridge evaluating new AI techniques to recognize a child's face differently than an adult, and know a closed eye from an open eye. It's no different here than the split in 1980 between "Personal Computers" and "calculators." There are fundamental and important differences.

    *an old X-ray machine needs no computer. Many are still operating.
     
  20. Nodda Duma

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    At work (my day job) everything I deal with is all about sensor systems (and optics), data / information analysis, and new technology insertion into existing programs.

    Everybody I know of calls it "imaging" to differentiate from the analog and/or artistic "photography" which, of course, no one on my professional contact list or in my collection of business cards has worked with in at least the past 2-3 decades. I've never heard anyone refer to what I and they work on as photography.

    My day job has nothing to do with art, so I think the definition of photography must include some kind of artistic or creative content. Considering that the daily smart phone use is often not artistic (snapping pics of grocery lists or a discount code for example), there must be a distinction between photography and simple pictures -- visual post-it notes -- as well.

    I don't think this definition excludes digital photography. I guess the other conclusion could be the appropriate term depends on the end-use. Of course, that is just my opinion based on how I observe common usage. For example: "I'm into photography" or "Did you capture those images?" or "Take a pic of this coupon."
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
  21. jnanian

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    yup
    they still call them Xrays because it doesn't matter if it is film, direct digital or a sensor in a filmholder
    it is still radiation ( that is the X ).
    modern direct digital the sensor is a lot more sensitive so you need less radiation ... its like instead of being like iso 6 its like iso 4000
     
  22. nmp

    nmp Member
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    My point is instead of talking about film vs digital incessantly every which way, may be we (me included) can go out and take pictures.
     
  23. FujiLove

    FujiLove Member

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    I agree with Rockwell, as film requires an entirely different process, different skills and produces a very different aesthetic. But when I've discussed this in the past it usually results in me being criticised, called a load of names and told that I don't belong on the forum (not here). So I'll leave it at that.
     
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    ReginaldSMith

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    The Forum Category is "Ethics and Philosophy." The proposition in the original post is one of philosophy. Ok?
     
  25. jtk

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    IMO image-making is a concept and "photography" isn't ...it's tool usage.

    The notion that an object (film) is an activity (photography is an activity) demonstrates lazy language.

    Video producers, camera operators, editors and enthusiasts stopped calling their work "film" long ago, though many continue to call themselves filmmakers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
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    ReginaldSMith

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    I see very clearly a camp yelling, "just go take pictures, nothing else matters..blah, blah blah.. or is important or has any purpose to discuss." But, it is important to those who want to see the art form preserved or even advanced. You can't advance something you don't understand.

    When the Internet first entered our consciousness, all the populist pundits said, "this will democratize the world." A few decades later, it has become the tyrant of the world, run by Google, the NSA, and Facebook. It has democratized nothing important. Why? Because not enough people understood the fundamental structure of it. They just didn't look under the hood. It evolved along paths controlled by the eventual tyrants, not along paths controlled by the "demos."

    Photography is film, defines a process, craft and art form that can be largely controlled by the "demos" - the practitioners. Digital photography can not. The digitographer is always subservient to a host of tyrants who provide everything from electricity to Lithium to complex software so complex no individual could write it. Computerized cameras are now all being connected to the GPS, the Internet, the Smart phone. In short, "the grid." Will every photo you take be sucked up into the cloud in future cameras? Will the camera itself become just another tracking device like the cell phone? Will Google use your photos to discover illnesses, petty crime? Will there ever be again any privately made art that isn't subject to the tyranny of some stupid programmer who has never taken a photo in his life? Will the art form become just another co-opted and controlled pursuit? I can hear people yelling "conspiracy!" already. But, remember, no one saw it coming with the Internet either.

    To keep film photography alive as a democratic art form, it is essential to not automatically equate it with digital imaging. They aren't the same thing by any conceivable construct. I'm just suggesting that Ken Rockwell's quote is maybe more important than even he thought.
     
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