Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Digital World Unveils The Art Of Traditional Photography

I've been taking pictures since 1972. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic. In the summer of 1974 I took my first photography class at my local high school.

Between 1963 and 1975 Kodak produced more than 75 million Instamatic cameras helping to popularize a new mode of visual communication for the average consumer.

At about that same time Kodak also introduced the world's first digital camera. It took about 20 years before there was an "affordable" digital camera for the consumer.

For a short time in the 1990s savvy technology experts used software and either a scanner or video camera connected to a computer to capture digital video and still images.

Scanners create a digital copy of a printed photograph or other document while video capture allows you to create new digital imagery on your computer. Here's an example of a still frame from video I captured in December, 1995.

Using the latest QuickTime software available at the time I could capture a relatively sharp 320 x 240 pixel image. It was the first time I was able to easily post images on the Internet for family in friends.

*Note: Another historic moment in digital imagery came when a camera focused on a coffee pot was connected to a computer. The computer was programmed to capture still images and post them on the Internet.

Today digital imagery and video is so ubiquitous it's become part of the daily fabric of life. We now store and share our images and video on phones or various cloud and social media sites.

In the "olden days" it was common practice to order extra prints of our favorite pictures to distribute to family and friends. One-hour photo shops were created in an early marketing effort to instill a sense of instant gratification in consumers. Most offered a special two prints for the price of one deal which helped people share their images.

Today our digital images almost never get printed whereas our old photos are almost never available for viewing beyond the home. There are millions of people all around the world who have prints, slides, and negatives but we almost never see or share these images. Typically any digitized images are captured and shared via mobile phone.

In my personal photo archive I have tens of thousands of images captured over the past 40 plus years. I have maybe two or three thousand shot on film. Over the past 15 years I've used a variety of scanners to digitize some of these images but I doubt I will ever scan them all.

Recently I purchased a small, inexpensive scanner to quickly and easily capture images from my negatives and slides. It comes with a low resolution screen and allows me to scan 5472 × 3648 resolution images directly to an SD card.

Recently I captured a set of images from a series of color slides I created in my high school photography class.

No Photoshop or other image editing tools were used to colorize these pictures. These are scans of the actual slides as they were originally captured in my film camera.

Because we learned photography was an art our teacher taught us to use filters and other photographic tricks to manipulate images beyond traditional photographic methods. In this case we used infrared filters on our lens to create this effect.

Today we might think there is no art of photography because images like this can be easily created using digital photo enhancement and editing tools.

Some have argued all the digital tools and online sharing have caused the "end of photography." I don't think so.

I see big differences between photography as an art, as social media, as tools for marketing and branding, as journalistic and documentary resources, and as family history.

Photography as an art form will only grow as digital tools become more available to consumers. Photographers who are or want to be artists just need to find their passion and express it. There are more places to do this than ever before.

I'm happy to have had the opportunity to learn photography as an art form before the digital age. I'm also glad I was able to capture this image from my negative archives of Waldo Larson -- my first photography teacher. It was an honor to learn from him.

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