Digital Imaging Vs. The Darkroom; Developing Our Attitudes As We Expose The Future Page 2

The Students...A Bright And Confident View:
Most advanced students who have experienced the process producing black and white images want to preserve that means as an art form. These students are usually high school or college age and are usually dependent on school darkrooms. They see themselves as visual artists who express themselves with black and white images, which in their opinion, can only be produced with film and proper developing and printing techniques. They don't seem concerned by the lack of "color" in their lives. These students are not opposed to digital imaging, but for the present, they are reluctant to give up the satisfaction that film and black and white images afford.

Students using photography for vocational aspirations have a desire to learn digital imaging. They realize that this approach is the means of most professionals, and will eventually become how they make a living. Digital students will use high-end scanners and printers, film or digital cards to capture images, save the images to their computers, change the mode from color to black and white if desired, and do not require access to a darkroom to create their visions. They have the convenience of using workstations in their homes as well as the school lab and do not have to find a darkroom to complete assignments.

Getting Into Focus...A Contemporary View:
For now, school districts will let the interests of the student dictate how long wet labs will continue to exist. Mandatory curriculum changes are being made because students have different desires of how they want to record and create images. Most students are choosing digital courses to satisfy their goals. School districts will allow conventional courses to continue as long as there are enough registering students. When this number diminishes in favor of the digital experience, courses and specific units of study will change to meet the paradigm shift of students' needs.

For the photographer who has access to a darkroom, film and chemistry still has legs, and room to grow--at least for a while. This will mainly be found in vocational schools and a few lower-level institutions. The cost will continue to rise because of the supply-demand rule.

The phenomenon of digital imaging supplanting chemistry-based imaging is a fact that cannot be ignored. This is why institutions are updating their curriculum and rethinking their curricular goals. Instructors meeting the needs of current and future students are adjusting competencies and outcomes as they consider changes that are essential for achieving successful results for future photographers.

The bottom line has to be the quality of the image--the final product. A positive point of view to consider is that photography in its various chemical forms is well represented. Students are exhibiting work that is astonishing. Their visual statements are extraordinarily well designed and creative.

Although digital quality as an accepted "fine art" is still negatively accepted by many, it is becoming obvious that digital images with superb quality are being created--images that meet the highest standards. The digital imagery that is being synthesized today represents creativity, imagination, and a "mature" presentation, which many believe to be a direct correlation to the rapid skill acquisition that the computer experience brings to photographers.

Why is digital imaging such a "hit" with contemporary students? It's simple really; the procedures of traditional photography are becoming obsolete and antiquated. The results are slow, messy, and are limited in scope to the few dedicated artists, students, and teachers who are basking in the satisfying experiences of their past.

Some hobbyists and artisans who have developed their experience and appreciation for artistic black and white images want to maintain the traditions of our founding fathers. Yet other photographers seem willing to give up the darkroom experience because of the newfound enthusiasm and potential that digital imaging affords. The "new magic" they experience stems from the opportunity to embellish their visions and even to recreate their visions on a computer screen before outputting to print. There is no cost to experiment. They are able to push a button to "undo" a bad decision. These students experience immediate feedback, which allows them to create their "mind's eye view" before deciding to print the image.

Matt Lit, a colleague of mine who is a pro and adjunct educator in the mountains of Colorado, not to mention a past student of mine, likened the learning of digital imaging to a log rolling competition: "The second you stop running to stay on top of the curve, you're going to fall off the log!"

Technology, which usually represents a better means by which we live, has also in the world of photography, dictated new ways of creating images. Photography, like phone communication and the automobile, will continue to improve. We must hold on to the spirit of the past as we change our attitudes about exposing ourselves to the future.