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  1. #121
    clayne's Avatar
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    Give me an inkjet print and a fiber silver gelatin print, handheld, unframed, and ill tell you which is which.
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  2. #122
    Maris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hoffy View Post
    Do you dodge? Do you burn? Do you alter contrast? Do you use filters? In reality, photography is nothing but a lie.
    This class of argument comes up every time there is a discussion involving the putative relationship between a photograph and its subject matter. And the argument is always wrong.

    Going back to philosophy 101 the concept of truth and lies only applies to propositions; formal statements about the nature of things. A proposition that on investigation turns out not to be the case is untrue, a lie in other words. So the question devolves into: What formal statement does photography offer about its relationship to subject matter? Interestingly, those who insist that the camera lies or photography lies never offer (never think?) that there is a proposition to state and then to test.

    Here are a couple of illustrative examples of silly propositions:
    "A photograph of a tree is not a tree therefore photography lies". I can't remember a case of anyone credibly insisting the photograph should be physically congruent with its subject.
    "A photograph is cropped from reality therefore photography lies". Does anyone sensibly require the photograph to be as big and inclusive as the universe in order to be true?

    On the other hand: "All points in a photograph bear a one to one relationship to points in the subject matter". This is likely to be necessarily true of photography because of the physical causality of the process.
    There are several other propositions that are also true of photography and it is a pleasant diversion to think of them.
    Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.

  3. #123
    omaha's Avatar
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    This is a topic that is of keen interest in the art fair world.

    And digital photography has screwed it all up.

    Pre-digital, there was an inherent relationship between "art" and "craft". A good friend is a potter. Every piece is hand made, by him, with his own hands. No assistants contribute. When you buy a piece of Bauman Stoneware (and you should) you are getting something that the artist touched with his own hands.

    Sadly, the art fairs missed this inflection point, and began allowing digital, photographic prints. No big deal, you say? Well, the problem is there is zero incremental effort involved between printing the first and printing the 1000th copy. That is a fundamental difference. An analog print is a unique thing. Even if one has highly disciplined darkroom technique, no two prints will ever be truly identical. EVERY digital print is metaphysically identical. That's a huge thing.

    The pottery analog would be having someone like my friend John design the piece, and make the prototype, and then have some Chinese factory crank out a zillion of them for a nickle each.

    No one would accept those factory-made copies as anything other than factory-made copies. But we accept digital prints as "authentic"?

    There is more to things than how they look. How they are made matters.

  4. #124
    clayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by omaha View Post
    The pottery analog would be having someone like my friend John design the piece, and make the prototype, and then have some Chinese factory crank out a zillion of them for a nickle each.

    No one would accept those factory-made copies as anything other than factory-made copies. But we accept digital prints as "authentic"?
    This is pretty much succinctly it!
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  5. #125

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    ("photography always lies")

    Quote Originally Posted by Maris View Post
    This class of argument comes up every time there is a discussion involving the putative relationship between a photograph and its subject matter. And the argument is always wrong.

    Going back to philosophy 101 the concept of truth and lies only applies to propositions; formal statements about the nature of things. A proposition that on investigation turns out not to be the case is untrue, a lie in other words. So the question devolves into: What formal statement does photography offer about its relationship to subject matter? Interestingly, those who insist that the camera lies or photography lies never offer (never think?) that there is a proposition to state and then to test.
    I think this analysis is a red herring except in explicitly documentary photography like news illustrations (where something close to a formal proposition is fairly obvious, like Ken's example of the Lincoln conspirators above). The kind of "truth" that people associate with any art, not just photography, isn't very compatible with the propositional-logic sense of the word, IMHO. That makes for a richer sense of art than formal logic can offer, but it also makes it pretty hard to settle internet arguments with a decisive proof of correctness...

    But that aside, surely everyone realizes (if they think about it) that analog processes are also full of stages in which information is lost or distorted, and that the feeling that a photo is somehow an accurate representation of "what was really there" or "what you would have seen" is an illusion that skips over a whole lot of mental modelling that we do unconsciously. There's nothing wrong with that unconscious elision, but it's easy to confuse "I don't notice this class of inaccuracies" with "This class of inaccuracies is not important" (or even "...does not exist").

    There is, pretty obviously, no optical system that doesn't lose *some* information, including your eye---even before anything takes place that could be described as a capture, the in-camera projected image is already "degraded" from the pool of available photons that arrived at the lens. Practically speaking, nobody really thinks the degree of loss in a reasonably modern camera is important---we accept photographs as legal evidence of fact without having courtroom arguments over the number of air-to-glass surfaces in the lens used---but at some point, people start saying "I dunno, it just doesn't *feel* *real* *enough*", and shockingly enough that point is differently defined for different people in different contexts. I'm not sure why the first digital processing stage is such a popular critical point, but it sure is one.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  6. #126

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    Quote Originally Posted by omaha View Post
    An analog print is a unique thing. Even if one has highly disciplined darkroom technique, no two prints will ever be truly identical. EVERY digital print is metaphysically identical. That's a huge thing.
    It's also not true unless your printer is magic! I'll give you "every copy of a digital file is metaphysically identical", but getting it onto a physical substrate is a physical process with the variability thereunto appertaining.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  7. #127
    omaha's Avatar
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    Well, I'll grant you that there may be infinitesimal differences from digital print to digital print of the same file, but those differences (absent a mechanical malfunction) are not meaningful in any relevant sense.

    The printer (the person, not the machine) does not press "Print" and then say "Ooohhh...I hope this turns out to be a good one!" Instead, he enters the quantity (50, lets say), presses "Print" and expects 50 identical copies.

  8. #128
    clayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
    It's also not true unless your printer is magic! I'll give you "every copy of a digital file is metaphysically identical", but getting it onto a physical substrate is a physical process with the variability thereunto appertaining.

    -NT
    Not done by the nuance of a human however. That's emphatically different.
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  9. #129
    Ken Nadvornick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
    ..surely everyone realizes (if they think about it) that analog processes are also full of stages in which information is lost or distorted, and that the feeling that a photo is somehow an accurate representation of "what was really there" or "what you would have seen" is an illusion that skips over a whole lot of mental modeling that we do unconsciously.
    I guess I see a photograph as a naturally occurring phenomenon devoid, at the precise moment of rendering, of the Hand of Man.

    At its most fundamental level it is a process that, although heavily refined by the chemical engineers to work well on a film substrate, and heavily altered by the optical engineers who designed the lenses to correct the things we don't like about the pinhole images that result from that hole created by the aperture blades, and conveniently encased into a useable form by the mechanical engineers who created the user interface we call a camera, essentially initiates, progresses, and concludes solely according to the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics.

    The human photographer can chose the subject, camera, film, lens, shutter duration, aperture setting (pinhole geometry), along with an almost endless series of other variables. But all of these are chosen pre-rendering of the actual photographic image taking place.

    At the moment the photographer releases the shutter, thus allowing light to strike the film medium, his contribution, and the contributions of all those generations of scientists and engineers, ceases to continue. At that moment the Hand of Man stops, and the Hand of Nature takes over.

    Nature herself will spontaneously imprint an image onto the medium of whatever image was projected by the aperture pinhole. Nature does not want, and does not need, any input from Man for this process to proceed to completion. Once the shutter closes, the deed is done.

    At that point Man steps back into the chain of events. He must tease that preserved image out and make it permanent. And he may later reproduce it many times over, into many different forms. But he cannot non-destructively alter that originally imprinted and preserved image. Nor can he ever identically recreate an exact duplicate, because the arrow of time has moved on. There are implications from the Second Law of Thermodynamics here, but we don't want to cause any more eyes to bleed than have already started to by this point.

    The main difference between this process and the other technology is the presence of the Hand of Man at the actual point of rendition. Light still strikes a medium. But that medum no longer preserves the image. Instead, the Hand of Man, in the proxy form of computer software, endeavors to simulate the Hand of Nature by simulating the creation of a real three-dimensional negative.

    It does this by reading voltages generated by (but not preserved by) the substitute medium and then logically abstracting them into the form of a zero-dimensional pattern. This pattern, consisting solely of abstract numbers that substitute for real-world negative densities, is itself a pure abstraction and is intended to be a substitute for a real negative.

    The crucial difference in all of this is that numbers, being pure abstractions, can be altered non-destructively at any point in (or after) the original simulated rendering of the image. And the practical difference this implies is that at no point in the creation or subsequent viewing of a digital image can the viewer ever be 100% certain that none of the numbers have been altered from their original values.

    If you suspect that the photograph in your hands was altered, you can immediately ask to see the original negative. There can be only one. And any after-the-fact alterations will be evident as destructive modifications. This chain of detectable events confers provenance.

    If you suspect that the print from a digital image in your hands was altered, you cannot ask to see the original RAW file and be 100% certain that the file you are given is an accurate copy of the original values that existed at the original point of rendition. Any after-the-fact alterations cannot be detected because they were non-destructive, and so left no chain of detectable events. Thus, there is no provenance.

    Changing a physical thing cannot happen non-destructively. Changing an abstract thing cannot happen destructively.

    (Umm... anyone need eye bandages yet?)



    Ken
    "When making a portrait, my approach is quite the same as when I am portraying a rock. I do not wish to impose my personality upon the sitter, but, keeping myself open to receive reactions from his own special ego, record this with nothing added: except of course when I am working professionally, when money enters in,—then for a price, I become a liar..."

    — Edward Weston, Daybooks, Vol. II, February 2, 1932

  10. #130
    lxdude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
    variability thereunto appertaining.
    Dang.
    I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
    When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.



 

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