Digital Images dominate . . . but with a downside

A friend passed this along from the SF Chronicle, an article which speaks to the democratization and ubiquitous nature of digital photography:

Bottom line: We’re in the midst of one of art history’s greatest transitions. If film was the medium of the 20th
century, digital will dominate the 21st century, with transforming effects for artists and nonartists alike.
“Everybody who takes digital photographs experiences them in the moment,” Beltran says, “and rarely goes back to look at them again. It’s really changed the way we think of photography to have this literally instantaneous image of something that just happened, and it dramatically changes the way we experience things.”
Beltran, who teaches photography and other disciplines at the San Francisco Art Institute, says she’s always been a gadget freak with an
easy grasp of new technologies. “I think there are many wonderful things about (digital photography), but to me there’s just a sadness in the way
it interrupts our being present — in the way we constantly think about recording something at the same time we experience it.”

To me, it is a bit about the law of diminishing returns, the fecundity of imagery available makes individual images less valuable to us. Our attention spans limited already by channel-surfing and video games have become programmed not to linger, to absorb and contemplate. People less and less print out photos to put in albums and collect for future generations. Perhaps hard drives will be passed down sacredly from grandparents to grandchildren.

Ironically, I believe this proliferation will just make beautiful meaningful prints more valuable, if the public takes it upon themselves to devote attention to the more complex images. I see it in contest judging all the time, the easy to read images make it to the top round early and often, while more complex images that contain perhaps greater levels of irony and information are passed over in the 5 seconds that have been allotted into assessing the photographs’ value. As a society we just don’t spend enough time in the act of contemplation. There are so many issues about the digital revolution, this article just touches on a few of them.


2 thoughts on “Digital Images dominate . . . but with a downside

  1. when i was doing the museum tour in new york a few months ago i was in awe of how many people (of all ages but mostly the youngins) would move from room to room taking quick cell phone snapshots of all the famous artworks, collecting little photo archives (but for what ends?), experiencing the artworks through their phone monitors. it was quite something to watch.


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