Photography is a wide-ranging
field that engenders passion in its practitioners, and like all great
forms of expression creates opinions formed through experience and reflection.
In its early days one of the great debates was: Is Photography Art?
This was the subject of many essays and heated discussions among players
and spectators. Today, issues such as film vs. digital, format choices,
the validity of computer generated images, photography as exploitation
or revealer, and even the merits of ink jet vs. silver prints cause
similar debate. We are opening this department up to readers, manufacturers,
and retailers--in short, everyone who lives and breathes photography
and who has an opinion about anything affecting imaging today.
Here's how to get involved: write us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or send us a letter with a proposed topic and a synopsis of your idea.
Once approved, we'll ask you to send us about 500-1000 words on
the subject chosen. The idea here is not to push any product or wave
any flag, but to create discussion about photo and imaging topics of
the day. We reserve the right to edit whatever you send in, although
we will never edit intention or opinion but only for length and, hopefully,
for clarity. We reserve the right to publish your work on our web site
as well, so you can join the archives and be a resource for opinion
for years to come.
So, get thinking and writing and share your Point of View.
P hotography is the art of
creating images by the action of light. Technology has always driven
improvements in the photographic process, from early daguerreotypes,
tintypes, and cyanotypes to today's high-speed films and megapixel
In the past, most process improvements were chemical in nature, but
today's major advances are provided by digital technology. And
as these digital processes yield higher and higher quality, the demand
for silver-based photographic materials is dropping to the point where
manufacturers can no longer profitably produce items like internegative
film, or reversal photographic papers (Type "R" materials).
Consequently, it is no longer possible for photographers working with
traditional transparency film (slides) to print their images as they
always have, and are instead scanning their work so it can be output
through a number of high quality printing processes, such as LightJet
or giclée prints.
As a point of reference, B&H Photo, one of the largest camera stores
in the world, has only a limited stock of outdated internegative film
that expired two years ago. As these materials disappear, the photographer
who has spent an entire professional career shooting transparency film
has no choice but to scan their slides if they wish to make prints.
Even photographers who shoot negative film may find that the superior
control and flexibility of digital processing makes the effort of scanning
their negatives worthwhile. Photographers who shoot their images digitally
(it should be noted that in 2003 the sale of digital cameras exceeded
film cameras for the first time, and the trend is accelerating) have
no choice but to work digitally in their printing processes. Optical
enlargement on chemically processed paper is just not possible, nor
is it desirable.
The solution of choice for many is ink jet printing. It is a natural
transition for those photographers who have always chosen to do their
own printing as they now have even more control over the finished print
than they previously did. Programs like Photoshop, while difficult to
master, offer photographers tremendous control over their images, allowing
them to express their vision in ways that were never possible even with
the most highly skilled chemical darkroom work.
Rapid advances in depositing microscopic droplets of ink precisely where
the photographer's image requires them allow the artist to produce
truly beautiful images on ink jet paper. Each print is considered an
original, in the same way that multiple optically enlarged photographic
prints are considered originals. Just as the chemically produced negative
is only a step in the completion of a finished image, so, too, is the
digital photographer's electronic file just a point in the process
to the final output of original prints.
There are those who think that using a computer to adjust an image defines
it as "Digital Art." But this isn't so. Photographers
have always used adjustments like burning and dodging and contrast control
to optimize their photographic images in the printing stage.
In photography's history, the permanence of images has always
been an important consideration. Early color prints on chromogenic (Type
"C") papers were noted for their tendency to quickly color
shift and fade, and manufacturers worked to improve stability throughout
the 1970s. Today's ink jet prints also can be susceptible to attack
by ozone and ultraviolet light, but are rapidly being improved by their
designers. Ink and paper combinations exist today that have been subjected
to accelerated fading tests (www.wilhelm-research.com) and are rated
to resist fading for more than 200 years. Photography is now a medium
with potentially longer lasting archival qualities than ever before
in its history.
In conclusion, photographic images are created by the action of light,
whether that light strikes a chip of silicon or a film of silver halide.
The process that produces the final print should be chosen for its beauty
and functionality, taking full advantage of the best materials that
will allow the artist to fully manifest their vision. Photographs printed
using the ink jet/giclée process should be accepted as the natural
evolution of image printing for photographers.
Chris Maher and Larry Berman
are photographers, writers, and web designers, specializing in image
intensive photography sites. For more information, visit their websites