Making it old

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by stephen_hipperson, Nov 22, 2011.

  1. Why? Why do people spend hours and hours making their digital images look old? To what benefit? Does it hark back to Pictorialism? Can you imagine when these images are old our children's children will presume that digital image 'were crap back then'. Are we not modern? Should we not try to get the most accurate/sharpest/well exposed images as we can? Or is it just a case of 'I can so I will', without worrying about what they create - after all we live in a throw away society where image are 100 or penny? ( I can see another question forming in my mind as I write this.)
     
  2. Are we not modern?​
    I'm not.
    Should we not try to get the most accurate/sharpest/well exposed images as we can?​
    No. We should try to get our images to look however we want them to look.
     
  3. Stephen, don't think "old,"; think "relationship,"; think "touch," think "entanglement," "web," connectedness, etc., etc. Those "old" marks are the signs of how those pictured things, or the picture itself was handled, touched; participated in ...
    Also see Wabi Sabi.
     
  4. No more time than is spent making images artificially perfect. What's the motivation for that?
     
  5. Why? Why do people spend hours and hours making their digital images look old?
    Why do people ask questions like this? Photography is a creative medium. Explore and use any and every look you want via any and every tool you want. Darkroom, Photoshop, digital, film, plugins, action scripts, papers, alternative processes, pro lenses, Holgas, modern, classic, old, new, accurate color, saturated color, dreamy color, B&W, whatever. Just do it.
     
  6. "Why? Why do people spend hours and hours making their digital images look old? To what benefit?"
    Because that's the way they want them to look like. I digitally tone a lot of my B&W, and it's not to "make it look old" or anything else, besides the way I want it to look.
    "Does it hark back to Pictorialism?"
    It can, but I would bet most of the time, no. Digital has a lot in common with Pictorialism, particularly many of the uses of PS that we often see. I have often referred to it as "Neo Pictorialism".
    "Can you imagine when these images are old our children's children will presume that digital image 'were crap back then'."
    Only the uneducated will think that. Connoisseurs will know better. Besides, what will our children's children be viewing them on?
    "Are we not modern?"
    No. "We" aren't any one thing. What we are is free to see in our own way, and the hardware and software reflects this. Even cheap P&S cameras offer controls that 85% of their users will never activate. Photography is not a chorus line, we do not have to kick our heels in unison. We never did, really, and in photography when we came close to doing so, things were a little boring. There is no one "Modern" way things should look. Uniformity may be desirable or comfortable to you, but it's not for everyone.
    "Should we not try to get the most accurate/sharpest/well exposed images as we can?"
    NO. That POV is extremely popular with people who want to create photographs that fulfill the (non-existent) requirements of signifiers within the medium, and/or are enslaved to the equipment side, always poring over MTF charts, shooting test targets, anxious over the way things should be as opposed to the way one wants them to be. Conformity. Worse, locked into what the camera manufacturers want you to be.
    "Or is it just a case of 'I can so I will', without worrying about what they create - after all we live in a throw away society where image are 100 or penny? ( I can see another question forming in my mind as I write this.)"
    Here you are putting down people who do not think like you. They don't care, they don't think, disposable, etc. It's OK not to think in unison. If you find comfort in doing that, fine. Do it. But the world and others vary.
    If photography has rules as put forth in the OP, and clear, universal goals, then it would only be a game and nothing more.
     
  7. Your own photographs posted in your portfolio are primarily B&W. Why? The world exists in color so B&W is not an accurate representation of the world. Even if you are color blind you can still distinguish some color. Did you do it for some artistic reason? Just because you liked it? To imitate someone like Ansel Adams? Whatever your answer, those are the same reasons why someone would shoot Velvia for over the top color or blur parts of images or overexpose for a "high key" effect.
     
  8. I think I understand what you mean, Stephen. I do sense that many are using digital to mimic film, wanting it to "be just like" or "be just as good as" film. Many discussions on PN center around photographers bemoaning the fact (as a reason to dislike digital) that digital doesn't look exactly like film, that they can see a difference. Defenders of digital will often say "You can't tell the difference." "Digital looks just like film." Why are they invested in this?
    Some day, we will let go of these kinds of discussions and embrace the unique characteristics that digital brings us. Some may embrace things like its ability to produce tack sharp pictures. Some will embrace the new and nifty presentation methods digital has brought us, which go under explored. (After all, look at how limited we are in our methods of presentation on PN . . . the awful light gray background that intrudes its reflective light washing out our photos, with no alternatives offered on the site itself unless you create your own individual web site.) I go to a lot of galleries and many people are displaying their work in all kinds of formats that would have been impossible years ago.
    So we really don't have to wait for some day. Some people are already moving on. An iPhone esthetic is already starting to develop, much like a Polaroid esthetic did once people stopped trying to make 4x5-like photos with Polaroids. I see much digital work, particularly in local galleries that IS NOT trying to look old or like film, but I think it's still rare as the dinosaurs tend to rule the roost until new visions are adopted. We encounter many of the dinosaurs in the incessant PN chatter about tools and the endless digital-film debates. Meanwhile the world of photography is moving forward.
    There will always be an influence of "old" ways of doing photography on new technologies and methods. The history of photography (and art) is a dialogue throughout the ages, complete with influence, homage, and breaking away. It all goes into the mix. There is continuity, overlap, and distinction from era to era. Though we often tend to be sheep, we don't have to be. There will always be someone who nudges things forward or breaks into a trot out ahead of the pack. But even that visionary will probably have a strong understanding of the past and will probably have dabbled in it or more likely even been immersed in it for some period before taking off.
     
  9. "Should we not try to get the most accurate/sharpest/well exposed images as we can?"

    Who do you work for, man! The marketing dept of Japan Camera, Inc?
     
  10. I've noticed the past three or so years, an interest among young photographers -- young teens -- exploring non-pr hype photography. Toy cameras, cell phone cameras, still captures from laptop cameras, I think, are probably the most common experience they have with photography. It is also possible that youth, as it sometimes does, simply rejects the values of their parents and explore alternatives, even opposites, just because. So, welcome to Seniors City.

    There is nothing more sterile and dismaying than the professional images preferred by the marketing deptartment. I'll give the young credit for recognizing that and doing something else.
     
  11. The aesthetic of the imperfect that was mentioned above (thanks for an insight into Wabi Sabi) and the very rational arguments of some for a "why not" response to your question, including the statement that whatever approach fits the creative objective of the photographer is valid, are sufficient reasons for me to also respond to your questions "why not?"
    Putting constraints on visual expression is to me a non-productive approach. I do have some trouble with highly overblown colours and contrasts of some photoshopped images I see, but I don't question the right of the photographer to handle his subject matter entirely as he sees fit. That has always been the benchmark of art, whether the approach is highly original, whether it is limited by the techniques of the time (the look of many nineteenth century photographs were affected by long exposure times and lenses that had yet to benefit from the later correction of many optical aberrations) or whether it fits into some movement of the period. The force and beauty of some cave drawings of animals and the boldness of their black strokes can inspire some artists even 20,000 years later.
    CBC ran Villeneuve's 2009 film "Polytechnique" Sunday evening. The choice of black and white for the filming may be considered by some as outdated technology, but that medum and the restrained use of dialogue fitted very well the sensitive re-enactment of the events of the December 1989 Montreal massacre and how it affected those concerned. The use of the older monochromatic medium well fitted the subject. The apt use of symbolism and irony were made more effective than colour by the stark black and white medium (In one scene, an aerial view of the river, one of the male students drives to his rural home for Christmas along the river road, alongside crazy patterns of broken up islands of river ice and his lonely observation of this somewhat bizarre winter nature, before he directs the exhaust by hose back into his parked car, his suicide being a personal conclusion of his inability to have done more to stop the murder of so many of his female classmates). Other directors have also used the old fashioned medium of black and white as an artistic tool. Why not?
     
  12. >>> Are we not modern?

    We are Devo.
     
  13. While I certainly agree with Luis and Arthur that we are and should be free to create photos in our own way (though how free we are is questionable since we are to at least some extent determined by where our culture is at the time and the prevailing esthetic does have a strong influence), I also think it's OK to question what "we" are doing in our time, as a group. Didn't Stieglitz do this and didn't it have a profound effect on the course of photographic history and the status of photography as an accepted art form while also having a significant effect on his own work?
    So, I think collectively questioning where we're going, what technology allows us, and how to utilize new technologies is an important part of what we do. Moving culture collectively out of the past can be a significant accomplishment, even while ties to the past will never be severed completely. No, I don't think everyone must do this and I don't expect everyone will do this. But I think it's reasonable for some to wonder about the collective vision, which is how I'd like to understand Stephen's question. Photography (whether as an art, a craft, a medium . . . all the things photography is and can be) is as much a dialogue and a community affair as it is an individual undertaking. While I like asserting myself as an individual, and do to the extent I am able and/or wanting to at the time, I also like being a part of something bigger than myself.
     
  14. I agree with Fred, and I may have misread Steve, but I didn't see what he said as taking stock of the medium. It's a perfectly legitimate question. I saw Steve as clamoring for a "one-mind" approach, questioning divergent views, but Fred's question is fodder for another (potentially huge) thread (please post it).
    [Since I do not believe in free will, yes, I see all of us as denizens of the hive, even if in different 'hoods of it. Individuality (among other things in the medium) is overrated, IMO.]
     
  15. One can cling to the past or break new ground. Or anything in between. Do what makes you happy.
     
  16. Brad, I'm not particularly looking for happiness. Honestly. Making photos doesn't necessarily make me happy, nor would I want it to.
     
  17. Brad, do you mean the past and/or new ground in a personal sense, in terms of the medium neither, or both?
    In spite of the long history and the philosophical persistence of the pursuit of happiness in American history, my photography has little, if anything, to do with that.
     
  18. Fred, you seem to have chosen the most basic definition of the word "happy." Whatever photography
    does (or doesn't do) for you, that's great - it is no concern of mine.
     
  19. Whatever photography does (or doesn't do) for you, that's great - it is no concern of mine.​
    Like I said, Brad, I have a more cultural/communal view of things. So what others do is a concern of mine. I like feeling a part of something more than just what I do. One of the reasons I gravitate toward this forum is precisely because I am concerned with what others think and do. And I think there is a connectedness among us that can be enriching. I know you do collaborative work and I'm seeking out some partners to do a couple of projects with right now. That moves me away from my own concerns and into some of the concerns of the greater community and culture.
    As for happiness, I'm using it as anyone would. Joyful, satisfied, delighted, pleased, contented. Those are things I'm not necessarily looking for when making photographs.
     
  20. Sometimes, clinging on to the past is breaking new ground. This is not an old/new dichotomy. Part of this, to me, is also the market at work, including marketing, fashion, hype, mainstream opinions and cutting edge avant-garde. And all in between.
    Don made a good notion, there does seem to be an increaed interest in 'less-than-perfect' images: Holga, editing as described in the OP, in general B&W (maybe it's me, but there does seem to be more and more B&W on sites as Flickr).
    And at the same time, there is an ongoing pursuit of sharper, more saturation, "colours that pop". New cameras all seem to be made to be improving these points (that, and clean ISO 410.000 shots).
    Two ends of the spectrum, but to my eye, the two most profoundly present "looks". And so, what the industry (be it hardware, be it software) will happily sell us are tools to deliver this. And of course, to make us want it more, they will make it gain momentum. It is where "because I can" becomes a valid reason for many people.
    From there on, it's as already said: technology enabling us to get the image the way we envision it. Large groups will follow a look that might be a temporary fashionable look, as is the nature of masses. There is nothing wrong with that, nor new, nor specific photography related.
    Or shorter: what Fred said, but don't underestimate the marketing that runs in between it. It's a third party in the dialogue of what we want and where we want to go.
     
  21. Wouter, before the Holga, there was the Diana, and it was popular since about the 1970's, if memory serves. It was part of a reactionary movement to the technical fixation (and its attendant signifiers) of the day. These cameras do not "see" in the photographically ideal way, but it is difficult to understand why they are so popular. I knew a successful artist/photographer in Barcelona who often lamented a decade ago that his Holga prints outsold everything else he did at the time. Personally, the attraction of these toy cameras with their distinctive optical signatures is in part, because they are different from photographic conventions, but maybe because they have something in common with the way images are preserved, process, recalled (some of the above, or all of the above) in memory, and no, I have no data, just my idea.
    Back to the present, this is not a new or particularly current idea. At one time, some graduate programs required MFAs to have a Diana or Holga before entering the program.
     
  22. Do it any way you like and don't worry about what others think.
     
  23. Fred's point about cultural and geographical limitations is good, as is the need (of the example of Stieglitz) to react against certain visual art movements, although I probably wouldn't go so far as the art student in Toronto who went to the AGO and vomited on well-known works that he did not approve of. Why worry about the incursion in one's practice of former photographic movements and techniques if it adds to your abvility to convey what you want to convey? Knowledge and art are based upon an evolution, and we can, like the word and idea vocabulary we have also acquired over many years, make use of whatever seems appropriate to get the job done.
    I think the cultural "straightjacket (yes, it is a purposely chosen extreme word for a not so extreme but important attribute or condition) we all have, whether it is the culture of our local or our national society, or the culture of the type of photography we have chosen, is I believe more of an issue or challenge than that of borrowing from former photographic movements or techniques.
    We see this played out to some degree on this site and it seems to be an important factor, even in peoples who are ostensibly not too distant in experience (Europeans and North Americans, Canadian and American socio-political experience and viewpoints, differences among Americans of differing places, society, French Canadian and English Canadian cultural dissimilarities, rural and urban differences, male and female forms of priorities, and so on). It is a good thing, as it incites us to consider thoughts of others from outside our own comfortable culture. What I would love to see is more interaction on the cultural and photographic levels of members from the Orient, Middle East, African, North American, South American, etc. Those differences may be useful in cross-fertilising our own perceptions, photographically speaking or otherwise. For example, little cultural imperatives or values are brought to the fore here from Oriental or South American posters, which may partly be caused by language differences.
     
  24. >>> Like I said, Brad, I have a more cultural/communal view of things. ...

    That's great, Fred.

    While you seem to want to limit and package it as being orthogonal, doing collaborative work, having a
    cultural/command view, etc is hardly at odds with what was expressed specifically with respect to the
    OP, or, to my point of not wanting to take the time (now) to ferret out the perfect word/descriptor to
    efficiently (in order to not hijack the thread) describe the feeling you get from photography. As an aside, we all have
    lots of photographer/artist friends we respect for connecting within the community - especially in SF.
     
  25. I'm going to try and sympathies with your premise and suppose that doing funky things to pure photography just makes you uneasy. I too was disdainful of "creative things you can do with your photos" thinking. The results were inevitably tasteless schlock. As I saw more sophisticated results were being attained post-acquisition, I loosened up. As a more liberal critic I now pose the question: "does it inform the work". It meaning whatever is applied, rather than what is intrinsic to the print. I call these "art treatments". The "inform the work" question also applies to choice of camera or film medium. Becoming even more liberal with age - verging on second childhood - I glory in plug-in art treatments and find no shame in doing them. My most cherished sacred cow was watercolor paintings. I am still fairly doctrinaire in that medium - no opaque white - EVER! But, I love the look of "watercolor" plugins. I have a good rationale for my flipflop. Plugins themselves are a medium just like paint and film. Used intelligently (yes, even TX400 simulated grain) they can be used in a work of art - photographic or otherwise.
    I've been sorting cartons of old family photos. The B/W ones shot with good cameras, no matter how bad the picture, are sharp and snappy. The Brownie to Instamatic stuff is uniformly awful. Forget about color snaps. They are gone, gone, gone. There is an old color photo plugin I don't recommend.
     
  26. Brad, all I can do is go on what you say. The only two statements you had made that I was responding to were: 1. Do what makes you happy. 2. What you do is of no concern to me. I thought it was worth noting that there is more to photography than pleasing ourselves. If we agree on that, fine. I had no way to know that your thinking might have been more complex from the words you wrote. I hear "All I want to do is please myself" a lot on PN. And it sounds lonely, isolated, and out of touch to me. I offered an addition, as I did to what Luis and Arthur originally said, the communal/cultural one which is often enough left out of discussions to warrant emphasizing every now and then. I'm glad they recognized the usefulness of that addition.
     
  27. Arthur, a lot art movements of old were reactionary in nature, mostly to other movements that had become the conventions of the day. Since movements went out pretty much with the onset of Postmodernism,which is/was a condition, not a movement, reaction to that was much less facile. The tectonics of the culture aren't as clear as they once were. I would guess that today there is more emphasis on proactive strategies than reactive ones.
    There is also going back to explore or expand on prior movements and or vectors left behind.
    We are all from somewhere, of course, though some nowadays are more global than others, in literal/physical terms and culturally. If nothing else, geography is a convenient categorization to look at art & artists through.
     
  28. Not flippant or superficial, Fred. Just direct.

    >>> I was offering an alternative, the communal/cultural one which is often enough left out of discussions
    to warrant emphasizing every now and then.

    We should talk sometime.
     
  29. Are we not modern?​
    Well, wouldn't that mean you want to make it look like something from the 50s or early 60s? I mean, that was modern art.
    Personally, I see contemporary art as a grab bag of past periods and new influences. A blending of new and old as we explore more recent mediums and transitions that the technology has caused. But hey, what do I know?
     
  30. Are we not modern?​
    No we are post-modern. We play with the language of photography like architects play with their references to previous styles in achitecture.
     
  31. Well I do like old stuff usually better then new stuff. But generally I like a good B/W print that is actually kind of old. A new picture that was rubbed in the mud to look old probably would just make me feel sad.
     
  32. Will a viewer of our photos 100 years from now really give a rats ass if we went retro or modern with our style? I think the only reason any of our photos will be viewed in the future at all is because they are entertaining or thought provoking.
     
  33. Goodness.
    Need to give the thread a proper read - just got few minutes - but to clarify ....in my parlance
    Black and white, alternative processes, pinhole. etc are not in themselves making an image 'old'. I suspect my original terminology was off - I meant 'artificially age', ie to make a photo look as if it's been around for years, worse for wear, etc.
    Sure a response can be 'why not' - (why did you paint the wall red - why not - oh ... did you watch the match last night?). Perhaps not a good idea to speak at all. Personally, I don't see any point in making a photo 'look old', for course you can, but why, I don't understand, help me. I have a niggling fear that our digital photos (I am particularly referring to prints) will never become 'aged' in a way that previous media has (have you ever spilt coffee on an inkjet print, not something you can quickly rub off in my experience!)
    I will review your gracious responses properly as soon as I can.
     
  34. Stephen I agree with your "goodness" !
    I think that "making-it-old" is less an effort of making photos look like photo prints of the old days, as seen by us today, but more an effort to represent present days reality to look like these older days, as seen in old photos and in our more or less distorted long term memories. There is a difference between mimicking photos and mimicking imaginative realities.
    In general I believe that the most common way of "making-it-old" is B/W conversions, as mentioned by several above, especially in Street photography. Not only were photography of "streets" in the "old-days" and very-old-days, due to obvious technical limitations, in B/W, but most western cities were themselves less colorful due to fashion and not least to air-population (coal heating and the resulting falling tons of soot). Visit Chinese nowadays industrial cities of the main land to see what it was like in Europea and America at the the heydays of B/W photography.
    Current B/W conversion in photography could be called soot- fascination, but survives because of an ever present nostalgia of times passed.
    It surely also survives because of the objective (?) aesthetics of black and white expressions as again Chinese ink paintings, etchings and lead drawings have shown for centuries - all still wide-spread use of expressions, independently of any longing back in time, by making-it-old.
    In fact, I believe we are also (almost) all "making-it-old" by our shared obsession of photography as a distinct medium of expression. The futur has since some years (10 years or so ?) belonged to mixed media expressions. Look at contemporary art on the rise, and the trend becomes clear.
    Being "modern" might be to long back to older days, or not. If it is common, it is "modern", in my eyes, whether we like it or not.
     
  35. Why? Not to be crass, but in some cases, it's simply be because a good number of customers want that sort of look and are willing to pay for it.
    Maybe the bride and groom who wanted their wedding done "antique style" in a few years will go to Branson, MO, pay to dress up as Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty from "Gunsmoke", and have their photo taken in a simulated bar scene. Maybe it's little more than a novelty to them. For others, I suspect it a yearning for the past, thinking it was "better", "represents classic values", "not so sterile", etc. etc.
    This, of course, doesn't explain why it is seen on photo.net in obviously non-commercial photographs. Perhaps the previous posts in this thread provide some insight, perhaps it's budding photographers who simply want to build their chops and show that they can "do anything" with an image.
    Tom M
     
  36. Stephen: "I meant 'artificially age', ie to make a photo look as if it's been around for years, worse for wear, etc"

    Thanks for the clarification. There was a discussion here some years ago about the found print (I think the example was a Capa taken in the USSR) and whether it ought to be restored or left as-is. There might have been some discussion about 'aging' a contemporary print. I recall it stemmed from a discussion in a photo classroom. It did not go well for the OP. I can try to find it, if you like.

    Anders: "but most western cities were themselves less colorful due to fashion and not least to air-population (coal heating and the resulting falling tons of soot)"

    I live in Pittsburgh, once the Steel City and poster child for air pollution. Since the 1980s, the mills have gone away and the light is very different from what it had been. In the 1980s, the University of Pittsburgh funded a photography project for the purpose of comparing photographs of the then current city to those from the past (taken between 1890-1960) -- the same scene from approximately the same setup spot. The decision was made to use b&w film. All the older photos were b&w, and the contemporary ones were shot in b&w for purposes of comparison. Today, if I were to set up shots for comparison to some Gene Smith took here in 1955, I would not hesitate to use color instead of b&w, because the change in light has been dramatic since the University's project in the 1980s, which was still closer to the light in 1955 than what we have today.
     
  37. Today, if I were to set up shots for comparison to some Gene Smith took here in 1955, I would not hesitate to use color instead of b&w,​
    I totally agree Don. I draw the same conclusion when shooting shots of the city of light", Paris. Colors is what mark also contemporary Paris - like here. However also I fall in for the temptation and frequently use B/W which is clearly a question of nostalgia - like here - for a time, that I have not experienced, but been influenced by, through films and photos of Paris before the 70's.
    However, this is a cultural and ethnological specificity of the place, as others have referred to beyond. For example African countries have always been characterized by colors more than B/W despite photos of "old days" like it is the case in Far Eastern, countries - as here.
     
  38. People use different styles to be different then others. Each of us has an inherent need to stand out in the crowd. So we tilt photos, smear them to look like watercolors, convert them to B/W and then add some plug in adaptation, or tone them, HDR them, or use any one of thousands of variances hoping that our shot stands out. Saturate, de-saturate, change the format, go pano, go contact, scrape the negatives, add old grain, make them clean. Doesn't matter. Just be different. The manufacturers cater to this. Look at all the art modes in cameras and in PP programs. Then we get bored and will go back to natural, un-cloned, honest, oh wait, wasn't that in style a couple of years ago. Matters little, it will be again soon.
     
  39. People spend hours making photos look old for a couple of reasons. The first is that digital photography is not really its own medium--it's simply a synthetic electronic facsimile, although much is admittedly technically sharper. Black and white photography reached its zenith in the 40s and 50s, and has rarely been bettered. Most of what is done today seeks to imitate film photography, whether cross-processing, sepia, or whatever. The only thing uniquely digital is HDR. There is no other characteristic that digital brings to the medium, much like a synthesizing keyboard: you either get a perfectly-tuned fake piano sound, or something dreadful.
    The other reason is that nostalgia sells. This is the same in the violin-making business, where antiqued instruments outsell new-looking ones. Wedding photography makes good use of this--for what else is it but the nostalgia business?
     
  40. Is using an older style of presentation, making it 'look old'? I don't know, maybe. I've had shots that people tell me they can't tell what century it was taken in. While not unaware of the presentation style I was using during PP, it was how I felt at the time of PP. I tend to use whatever works for me. In my mind it is a contemporary presentation regardless of the techniques I use.

    The problem is, the original question comes very close to classifying any photo that uses certain presentation techniques as somehow inferior based solely those presentation techniques. I'm OK with people not liking my work, but I would hate for people to close themselves off from my photo before they even attempt to SEE it.
     


  41. "The first is that digital photography is not really its own medium--it's simply a synthetic electronic facsimile"​
    That is absurd. Digital imaging is a medium. A photograph made with a digital camera isn't a facsimile photograph any more than a Wurlitzer isn't an electronic gadget trying to be a piano.
     
  42. Alan,
    Of course digital imaging is a medium, but what, besides HDR, does it offer artistically besides imitate film photography, especially in the realm of B&W? Film emulation software is the epitome of this, and it's essentially fakery.
    A Wurlitzer isn't an electronic gadget trying to be a piano--it's an electronic gadget trying to be an organ.
     
  43. >>> Film emulation software is the epitome of this, and it's essentially fakery.

    How is it fakery?
     
  44. what, besides HDR, does it offer artistically​
    Immediacy, variability of viewing possibilities (i.e. backlit monitors), noise, pixellation, often a more metallic rendering, more defined transitions, innumerable photoshop filters, the ability to process color files in black and white (probably the most significant aspect for my own usage), reaching more and a wider variety of viewers, and anything else that a photographer without a closed mind is willing to discover.
     
  45. Digital is its own medium. Besides all of the other qualities mentioned above, for me the range of controls available in color are a world apart from film. All of those qualities allow a photographer to more closely approximate his vision, and gives the potential to further individuate their work.
    I think we're seeing the same old film vs. digital thing here in a slightly different guise.
     
  46. The film vs digital argument comes from the lack of understanding that film and digital are two DIFFERENT mediums who share a superficial resemblance to each other. They don't even share much of the same technology except for optics. What happens after light leaves the rear element of the camera lens, is radically different between digital and silver based photography.
    And even design considerations for lenses are slightly different between the two mediums. How often have digital photographers have been disappointed when they attach their favorite film based lens to a digital camera? LOTs of times!
     
  47. I can't go as far as Glen does and say they share only a superficial resemblance. The fact that we make PHOTOS digitally or by using film tells me that there's a substantial resemblance. Each, though, has distinctive characteristics which can be mined or not.
     
  48. "However also I fall in for the temptation and frequently use B/W which is clearly a question of nostalgia - like here - for a time, that I have not experienced, but been influenced by, through films and photos of Paris before the 70's."

    Anders, I don't think your linked example is 'retro' or 'vintage' looking. Is shooting b&w in itself "a question of nostalgia"? I wouldn't agree with that. Contemporary lenses and b&w emulsions or digital conversion produce a contemporary image out-of-the-box.
     
  49. "Should we not try to get the most accurate/sharpest/well exposed images as we can? Or is it just a case of 'I can so I will', without worrying about what they create..?"
    Stephen, my answer here has to be NO to both of your questions. Why? Because the camera and its user are not obliged to be just a perfect recording system and partnership. While accurate/sharpest/well exposed images are often the objective in some cases, the use of photography in a more artistic way sometimes leads the user to either override the camera's automation or to modify exposure, add blur and do many other controllable things that make the image something else than a so-called "realistic" reproduction (including accurate/sharpest/well exposed). "I can so I will" has always been something that artists and notable photographers have adopted and have not been afraid of. Putting photography into an apparent straightjacket is simply a way of denying other possibilities, of which former approaches and techniques may be just a few. Art has always had its share of re-interpretation of past modes, such as neo-gothic, neo-classical, and including the penchant today for the "retro" design. The art can still evolve in those cases.
    "Each, though, has distinctive characteristics which can be mined or not."
    Yes, agree, and if someone really wants to understand and benefit from film black and white photography, its benefits and its disadvantages compared to digital conversion, the way is evident and one does not have to look back (up to date techniques and materials are readily available).
     
  50. If I look at a box of old family photographs they have, as a general rule, a certain 'age' to them, scratches, smears, tears, marks, which to my mind give a layer of 'something'. When they were new, they were created to be the best possible, subject to the tools and materials at the time. 'Age' is inherent in the object because it has passed through time. If I prepare a black and white print using film/darkroom and choose to tone it using sepia, this isn't an attempt to make an 'old photograph' but simply making a photograph using an old technique, not the same thing. If I then take that photograph and crease it, rub it, putting a coffee stain in one corner, maybe put a couple of scratches across it, I am making that image 'look old'. Why would anyone want to do this? Of course we hear about similar techniques being used to create 'fake' furniture and other objects.
    What seems to make little sense to me, is to actually fake the fake when we come to digital imaging. ie, introduce the ageing process as part of the image itself - something that can be replicated at will - to me it's a pseudo effect - (I have seen some people refer to their approach to this as 'Fine Art' whatever that is).
    Of course it's up to individuals to pretend what they will - however, if I have this opinion about this particular pseudo effect, I guess I must say the same for any 'pseudo' effect applied to digital images - can't get the real thing anymore (polaroid), can't work in a darkroom (sepia), can't paint (watercolour effects) .
    As the Pictorialists fought for photography to be considered 'Art' by making their images look like paintings, are those who push towards making their digital images look like something else kidding themselves? - ie a picture is older than it is, made by a process it wasn't, or making up for a lack of skill in a particular field?
    Please don't think I'm saying you or anyone shouldn't do what the hell they like - I'm just trying to looking at things a little deeper in what is becoming an increasingly psuedo/superficial world.
    BTW - I have some work top in my kitchen which is pseudo marble, antiqued furniture (ply carcase with wood veneer), prints instead of real artwork - all because I can't afford the same thing. Of course I'm deluding myself that I'm wealthier than I am?
     
  51. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Of course it's up to individuals to pretend what they will - however, if I have this opinion about this particular pseudo effect, I guess I must say the same for any 'pseudo' effect applied to digital images​

    So in the end, this is the standard anti-"Photoshop" rant.
    ("Photoshop" being a stand-in for "digital processing.")
     
  52. Stephen, such a discussion is not possible on photo.net, which has more 3rd rails than a subway system.
     
  53. Immediacy, variability of viewing possibilities (i.e. backlit monitors), noise, pixellation, often a more metallic rendering, more defined transitions, innumerable photoshop filters, the ability to process color files in black and white (probably the most significant aspect for my own usage), reaching more and a wider variety of viewers, and anything else that a photographer without a closed mind is willing to discover.
    You've named many conveniences, but not much different artistically. What I mean by "fakery" with regards to B&W should be self-evident: one is simply copying the effects of B&W film, be it grain, filtration, or toning. While many people, usually beginners, do play around with the sillier filters in Photoshop, like mosaics or painting, many eventually abandon them and use the film-type effects the most. The OVERWHELMING majority of photographs on this and every other site look like film photographs.
    Let me ask this question: if someone suddenly invented film and everyone suddenly rushed to it, what would we seek to emulate about digital besides HDR? Would we use special chemistry to add digital noise (that's too scary to think about...)? A special enlarger to add apparent sharpness? Maybe make the whole process instantaneous?
    The artistic aspects that digital seeks to imitate from film are much greater than vice-versa.
    By the same token, while a synthesizer keyboard seeks to fake a piano, organ, or harpsichord, few pianists, organists or harpsichordists seek to emulate a synthesizer. Like digital photography, sampling can eliminate a musician's mistakes, raise or lower the pitch, or compensate for rushing or dragging the tempo. But one can only call a synthesized keyboard its own medium only in the most shallow sense
     
  54. Scott, I would submit that those are not mere "conveniences", though I strongly suspect you are using that demeaning term to trivilaize them in an attempt to strengthen your apparent anti-digital argument.
    In the age of film, to do something as simple as increasing contrast with my slides, I had to buy a pricey Bowens slide copier (Illumitrans?), a beautiful bit of gear which I still have tucked away in a closet, and copy the originals with K25, sometimes more than once to get the effects I can achieve with far more precision by moving a slider. But I can also change local contrast, which was not possible then. This isn't a simple matter of 'convenience'. It is a very real difference in what is possible and the precision with which we can effect changes.
    Please note I am not saying one is better than the other, but I can appreciate the differences.
     
  55. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The OVERWHELMING majority of photographs on this and every other site look like film photographs.​
    That's because they are PHOTOGRAPHS. It doesn't matter how they got there. This is what always amazes me, some people are far more concerned with process than photos. I guess that's fine if you're in the business, but for photographers, well the process is up to the individual photographer, not the viewer.
    And it appears that you have said there is no difference in the end result, so why would anyone care what someone else does?
     
  56. First, this is not a digital vs film thread, and I'm not anti-digital. I have taken advantage of much of the what digital does well. However, the original thread had to do with making photos look old. And I submit that making an image look old is indeed fakery.
    Second, this forum is, after all, not the "end result" category, but the "philosophy of photography" category, so I feel justified to put forth a philosophical argument.
    I didn't say that there is no difference in how one gets to the end result. There is a difference because one is real, and one is not. That may not make a difference to the viewer (because, after all, wedding customers often think that a fake sepia or cross-processed look is really neato), but it makes a difference to me and my work. I know what is real, and I know when I have faked something.
    A new violin that has been beaten with tools and had the varnish scraped off is not an old instrument--it has been faked in imitation of something else. That is what digital photographers do when they apply film-like effects.
     
  57. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    There is a difference because one is real, and one is not.​

    Photographs are a two dimensional representation of something that appeared on a light-sensitive surface of some sort. That's all that is "real." Everything else is irrelevant, it's just what the photographer does.
     
  58. Give me a lump of mud and I'll tell you a story.
     
  59. Don, rest assured that it is not just the young who dabble in toy cameras etc, I've shot everything from 35mm up to 8"x10" film over 25+years and I have toy cameras and am still experimenting with my work. The end, pre-visualized, image is all I care about. Does the image communicate what I want it to? Will it initiate a form of dialogue with the viewer? Will it make people think, or see the world differently? Digitally, or in the wet darkroom I'm happy to use whatever technology, techniques or trickery to get the image I had originally envisaged.
     
  60. Scott, I'll just say that each one of those things you label conveniences I have used artistically. In other words, I have used those qualities and characteristics to convey or express emotion, to visualize. That you use them only as conveniences is fine. But understand that others utilize them expressively. If you're envious, you needn't be. Just try it. If you're not envious, then I don't know what is your point? Do you feel better if you assert that others are faking something? Does it make you feel somehow more genuine? If so, great. But you're not. And that's for real.
     
  61. "That is what digital photographers do when they apply film-like effects."

    The problematic in the "fake" argument, Scott, is then all photography becomes fake painting and drawing. What we know about composition and light comes from painting and drawing. Our genres come from painting and drawing. We previsualize paintings. We see paintings in the vf. We are "drawing with light", with "the pencil of nature".

    I agree with you that the concept of the fake is a philosophical issue.

    ***

    Peter, I haven't used toy cameras, but I do like some old p&s I get at thrift shops and garage sales. Matched to a specific film, some achieve unique results. There are some really impressive photos online shot with Holgas.
     
  62. Do you feel better if you assert that others are faking something? Does it make you feel somehow more genuine?
    Fred,
    Again I'll point out two things: 1. This forum is concerned with the philosophy of photography. 2.The question specifically called into question the artificial aging of photographs.
    Some people do this and feel no qualms. When first started using Photoshop, I put a few fake-o polaroid frames around digital files and a few other things. However, if I want a photo to look like film, with grain, imperfections, or aging, then, yes, I do feel better about actually using film, and I feel as if I've been more genuine about it. I'm not sure why you think I'd be envious, though, as I could easily utilize any digital conveniences or effect.
    As a musician, I think that if someone were to release a CD with digital pops and hisses or varying pitch to simulate an LP, at this point I'd simply see it as tacky.
     
  63. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    As a musician, I think that if someone were to release a CD with digital pops and hisses or varying pitch to simulate an LP, at this point I'd simply see it as tacky.​
    It's been done, on some pretty cool stuff. Morcheeba and R. L. Burnside come to mind immediately. I don't think how you see it though. (Well Burnside is dead, so it would be past tense for him.)
     
  64. I know what is real, and I know when I have faked something.​
    If you don't like faking things, don't do it. If you do like faking things, do it. What's the problem? The history of photography and art is imbued with fakery and artificiality. Most artists know that it is their art that is real. Artificiality IS a reality of art. So most artists aren't troubled by fakery. I would imagine the Surrealists knew that clocks didn't melt onto tables. And I'm hopeful that most Cubists knew that breasts didn't grow on faces. In most art, being tethered to reality is a disadvantage. When a film director ages someone through makeup in a movie, he knows the difference between that and how slowly someone ages in "real life." If you don't understand that difference, you might try thinking about it more and being aware of it when you fake something in a photograph. Then your fakery will be genuine, because you will stop pretending it's something it's not and you'll utilize it consciously. There's a difference between faking to get away with something and faking to tell your story. Actors know they are not identical to the character they are playing, though they may forget that difference for the moment in order to do what they do. Why does an actor act? Why does a playwright write fiction? Why does a photographer age a photo? If what you're doing doesn't work, do something else. If you can find genuineness in the kind of magic you pull off, all the better. If not, it's your own shortcoming, not the shortcoming of your tools.
    If a director wants to direct a whisper and have the moment work on stage, he will have to exaggerate the volume of a whisper, otherwise the folks in the balcony won't experience the magic. That's fakery. There's nothing real about it, except relative to the play and the feelings or message being expressed. Yet the audience may go home and say that one character whispered key information to another. They may well have experienced it as a "real" whisper, especially if it was executed with expertise. I doubt most directors go home and trouble themselves over the fact that they faked out their audience. If they do so, they might do well to find another expressive outlet.
    The reality of photographs is their being created.
     
  65. Scott, you're a good, old fashioned Modernist!
     
  66. Most photos we see are illustrations. Photographic illustrations unambiguously support or simply decorate ideas. Pictures made as art, while more ambiguous, may also do this but are not required to. Techniques used for them are subject to reasonable criticism. To assert only that they somehow dishonor the medium as it is perceived by the critic isn't reasonable. Here we get into craft issues. When is the attention of the viewer directed towards the craft and not the greater intent of the picture? Does it first have to pass a craft test to be judged? Will an applied old look technique inform the work for example? Is the work about the craft of photography!
     
  67. Scott- "Some people do this and feel no qualms."
    Why should they feel qualms?
    "However, if I want a photo to look like film, with grain, imperfections, or aging, then, yes, I do feel better about actually using film, and I feel as if I've been more genuine about it."
    So....because Scott feel this way, does it mean everyone else should, too?
    [I don't think Scott is a Modernist for several reasons.]
     
  68. One of the implications of the idea that digital imaging is fake photography is that it is handicapped by the film photography paradigm. Qui bono? Obviously the photography industry, especially 'Japan Camera, Inc' who own the machines to make cameras and lenses (and also, and more importantly, the machines to make those machines), who by the mid-1980s faced a saturated market and declining profits. The photography industry as a whole, including publications, after-market manufacturers, software companies, and Photoshop experts did not dispute the paradigm but welcomed it, as did most professional photographers and most consumers.

    Kodak's current Ektar and Portras are designed to be scanner-friendly with little grain...to be "smooth", have "clarity", and "sharpness", just like a digital image. Are photos taken with them fake digital images?

    Is any scanned film photo a fake digital image?

    Will we see a future generation of digital imagers thinking outside the photography box, rejecting the notion of 'digital photography' as the nailed-to-the-rails unthinking conservatism of old fogeys.
     
  69. Kodak's current Ektar and Portras are designed to be scanner-friendly with little grain...to be "smooth", have "clarity", and "sharpness", just like a digital image. Are photos taken with them fake digital images?
    Is any scanned film photo a fake digital image?
    Don,
    Just want to bring the discussion around to the original topic: the artificial aging of the image and it's philosophical underpinnings. With all forms of art, there is surely a point at which one can say that a line has been crossed. At that point, one can be polite and call something "derivative" or one can just call something a copy or a fake. Recently, an author's bestselling mystery novel was found to have been almost entirely lifted from the work of others. So, is it ok if you liked the book? If no one told you the book was lifted, would you care? Maybe not.
    What if you go to a restaurant and you had a fantastic tiramisu, only to accidentally find out it had been made from a mix? What if you took mom out for a mother's day brunch, ordered real maple syrup, liked it, and only found out later that they charged you extra for a little syrup mixed with Aunt Jemima or Log Cabin? What if you ordered fresh-squeezed OJ and they brought you supermarket OJ with extra pulp? Would any of you have a gripe then, or is it entirely ok just because you enjoyed the meal? The problem these days is that we increasing accept a simulation for the real thing, and we can't tell the difference.
    But to answer the above question, Don, I'd say that I like the new films because, like a digital photographer, I often desire to have the a sharp photo with natural color and as few faults as possible. The broader question of whether a scanned image is a fake digital image? Well, I don't consider it so in the manner in which I utilize it: just a way--practically the only way-- to print the film. The better the scanner, the truer the scan is to the essence of the film. So if I want grain, I use a fast film and do my best to produce a scan that will reflect the characteristics of the film as much as possible. Using SilverFX to press the "grain" button would seem like the easy way out, like serving the Aunt Jemima because it's cheaper, faster, and no one's complaining.
    Am I a hypocrite for scanning? Absolutely, but that's just my present reality of space limitation. In other words, it's a compromise that I don't like, but when I do it I don't try to imitate an image made with a digital camera. That is, I don't use software to add digital noise.
    Just wondering: what does everyone feel about those jeans that have been shredded to look old? Tell me you don't laugh inside when you see some fashion ninny wearing them....
     
  70. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    That long list of examples has nothing to do with art. Or even documentary. The bad analogy thing is just plain bad. Especially the jeans.
     
  71. Ok Jeff (and anyone else),
    My examples may not relate to photography, but they do relate to authenticity, and our willingness to quickly embrace that which purports to be but is not. Many are happy to lose themselves in entire simulated worlds on their computers
    Let me ask this question, and it specifically addresses photography: Many of you probably have seen Nick Brandt's stunning photos of African wildlife. These were made with a Pentax 6x7 and tri-X film. However, it seems many of the photos were intentionally made to look as if they were old glass plate photos, using photoshop.
    So what is to be made of this? While I enjoy his work, the fact that the photos have been so obviously doctored is hard to ignore. Would you call it disingenuous? Brilliant? Fakery? All of the above, or none?
     
  72. >>> Just wondering: what does everyone feel about those jeans that have been shredded to look old?

    OK, I'll bite. I don't feel anything. Should I?

    >>> Tell me you don't laugh inside when you see some fashion ninny wearing them....

    What others wear really isn't a concern of mine. I am a little curious as to why it is a serious concern of yours, though.
     
  73. Being somewhat of a visual person, I love looking at what others wear. I especially love photographing people in interesting dress. So, I guess you could say it's a concern of mine. I don't laugh or cry, usually, because of fashion statements. I simply appreciate how each style looks and reacts with the person who chose the style to wear. It usually adds to a portrait to have someone who dresses with personality. I don't see purposely shredded jeans as "old"-looking. I see them as shredded looking, perhaps faded.
    I judge photos not on whether they look old but on what their looking old adds, what in the subject or style the old look relates to, and how it works with the overall communication or feeling of the photo, same as I judge depth of field, lighting, use of grain, color palette, contrast, etc. It would be as silly of me to say I don't like all uses of high contrast or muted colors as it would to say I dislike all uses of aging techniques. YMMV.
     
  74. Scott: "Just want to bring the discussion around to the original topic: the artificial aging of the image and it's philosophical underpinnings"

    Is that what this topic is about? If so, I don't understand what the whole 'making a digital photo look like a film photo' has to do with it -- unless you believe all film photos look vintage and therefore "look old" and therefore any digital image that "looks old" is thus a fake film photo. I make photos that "look old" just by shooting a Summar and a suitable emulsion. Voila! 1935.

    Or, do you mean someone who fakes platinum-palladium 4x5 contact prints in Photoshop and sells them as the real thing?

    Or, do you mean some high school kids making 'polaroids' with their p&s, or, who are attempting to match the faded palette of Kodacolor seen in the family album?

    Or, can all this be about adding 'grain' in Photoshop?

    Both you and Stephen have only vaguely hand-waved in the direction of something you call "making it old" or 'fake film photos'. You need to at least post links to examples of what you are referring to.

    Based on what we have been presented, I feel perfectly in tune with it by claiming all art photographs are fake paintings and drawings.
     
  75. Scott,
    Have to admit to having the same discomfort with Brandt and many similarly stylized examples. I would, perhaps too cruelly, say they have been Coffee Tabled. Great theme for a plug in!
     
  76. "So what is to be made of this? While I enjoy his work, the fact that the photos have been so obviously doctored is hard to ignore. Would you call it disingenuous? Brilliant? Fakery? All of the above, or none?"

    I'd call it a vignette.
     
  77. "So what is to be made of this? While I enjoy his work, the fact that the photos have been so obviously doctored is hard to ignore. Would you call it disingenuous? Brilliant? Fakery? All of the above, or none?"
    I'd call it photography. While I may not personally agree with Brandt's sentimentalist aesthetic, it's not my work, and he isn't defrauding anyone by claiming they were made in another process. I fail to see what's "wrong" with it. Scott, this is coming across as a kind of fundamentalism to me.
    [I do have one thing against those frayed-thin jeans, though. With certain wearers they cause eye strain.]
     
  78. For Fred's benefit, with clarity apparently needed... Being a photographer who only shoots
    people, I enjoy seeing what others wear, and am glad you do as well. It's an important aspect of my image-making. But in the context of addressing
    the *particular* question, with ridicule/contempt being the motivation, I just don't get worked up about how others dress.
     
  79. "Brandt's sentimentalist aesthetic..."

    Regarding the referenced photos...I don't know anything about Brandt or his motives. However, I do know that animals do not present themselves for a photo op in nature. Such encounters are rare -- except in a glorified petting zoo. So, what would a 'non-fake' version of his photos be? The lioness bounding across the veldt in pursuit of game? The leopard leaping up to or down from a tree? In gorgeous color, tack sharp, each hair of their coats reflecting brilliantly in the sun? Brandt's photos because of their aura of sentiment, even nostalgia -- having been made "old" -- acknowledge the faux reality evidenced in the 'non-fake' current genre wildlife photo and evokes a time and place when such things were not the bullshit product of a bag-your-shot day at the zoo.
     
  80. I think Scott meant the 'fakery' is in the antiquing, Don. The pictures don't pretend to be au naturel, and part of the theme is their apparently ephemeral future. In that sense, what he did with the pictures to make them look old, adds a sense of urgency to protect and save these creatures. Fakery? Not to me. Articulated, integrated vision is what I see.
    I grew up with fashionista parents, particularly my mother. Must have been a recessive gene, because it passed me by, but I've always been fascinated by what people wear, how it affects their identity and more.
     
  81. They don't look like old photos. They don't look like fake old photos. They look like contemporary photos.

    Two things seem really weird to me about the 'fake' and 'old' assertions. One is the appropriation of certain effects to film photography that have been part of the practice of imagery since at least the 13th century in Europe. The second is that these effects are "old" which means something is "new"; that those considered old when applied to the new means the new is a fake of the old (Poussin and David painted fake Roman mosaics).

    So, history, development, reference, continuity, reflection, Art -- in fact everything is trashed for the new . This is a radical notion which would require digital imaging to break with the photography paradigm. And that is kind of neat, except it doesn't call for photography to break with the painting and drawing paradigm as well as scanning film and thus film photography breaking off with the digital paradigm.

    My opinion? Neither Scott nor Stephen have thought it through, philosophically.
     
  82. Don said, "Based on what we have been presented, I feel perfectly in tune with it by
    claiming all art photographs are fake paintings and drawings."
    Not all photographs attempt to emulate paintings. There are many reasons why emulating some elements of some techniques are impossible, for example the texture and 3 dimensionality of using a palette knife, or pointilism.
    I would say that painting, drawing and photography are all siblings in the same family of, essentially, 2 dimensional visual communication. To claim that photographs are some how "fake" representations of their older siblings is to demean photography as art.
     
  83. "I would say that painting, drawing and photography are all siblings in the same family of, essentially, 2 dimensional visual communication."

    Two things common to our species, making images and telling stories. Photography is a way of doing that.
     

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