27 September 2005

Impact of Digital Photography? Expert thinks it may be a "new type of dark age"

I guess I'm the so-called expert. Yahoo News picked up a story done by Canadian Press journalist, Angela Pacienza on my "Memories" talk that a did a couple of weeks ago.

Someone more expert on photography than I makes this observation:
Stephen Bulger, who runs the Stephen Bulger Gallery in downtown Toronto, says photos that we hate today might become prized possessions in 20 years. "What's happened over and over again is that people using analogue (film and paper), invariably there's something that causes them to go back to a particular roll of film they shot and somewhere on that contact sheet there's a photograph that didn't strike them as being very significant until well after the photograph was taken," said Bulger. Had those photos been on CD, the quality would have deteriorated significantly to the point of being unreadable. "CDs don't last forever," Bulger warns. "It won't last as long as film will last."
So next time someone says to you, "Take a picture. It lasts longer!" you can reply, it ain't necessarily so.

Update: Here's an item from BoingBoing that cites a Library of Congress report about the loss of culture that is occurring from the future unavailability of our sound recordings. From the article:
Evidence uncovered in this analysis suggests that a significant portion of historic recordings is not easily accessible to scholars, students, and the general public for noncommercial purposes. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one appears to be a convergence of two factors. The first is that the physical barriers created by recording technologies change often and have rendered most such recordings accessible only through obsolescent technologies usually found only in special institutions. Second, copyright law allows only rights holders to make these recordings accessible in current technologies, yet the rights holders appear to have few real-world commercial incentives to reissue many of their most significant recordings. The law has severely reduced the possibility of such recordings entering into the public domain, at least until 2067.

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Mark Hamilton said...

Pshaw! If I'm a professional photographer, or an artistic photographer, I'm not going to burn my images to CD and be content with that, anymore than I'm going to just toss my negs in a drawer. The CD may not last as long as film, but the image itself will. It's not animal, vegetable or mineral like a neg or contact sheet, it's a string of digital information (open a TIFF or JPG in a text editor and take a look). As long as they can be stored, they will exist.

I'm more than open to the discussion of film vs. digital image making, but at least let's have it based on reality.

Nui said...

Seems like Stephen Bulger has a bias towards film that he doesn't realize he has. I agree with Mark Hamilton, how it gets stored doesn't matter. We've proven ourselves pretty ingenious in always devising newer ways to store images.

Once a still picture is produced, it gives an effect. For me that effect was to have frozen a moment in time which you can enter later and reconnects with so many levels of information of what was going on at that pariticular moment. That effect's been extended by digital memory and produces another totally different effect I'm still playing with. McLuhan wrote a chapter about the photograph in "Understanding Media" that I've recently re-read and have found some gems of realization related to the effects of the photo.

BTW, how can it be "the Dark Age" when all of this is produced by "light" as in electricity?

Mark (Federman), congratulations on this move to your own blog! : )