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THOUGHTS ABOUT USING A DIGITAL CAMERA
A digital camera is more than a portable, glorified scanner. A camera is
something quite different. As a photographer for over 30 years, I am very
excited by the possibilities of direct digital images and the Casio QV-100
camera that I now own.
Digital technology leaves much to be desired at this point in its development:
the tonal range is narrow, the contrast is too high, the colors are not true, the
film speed is slow and the resolution is coarse. A traditional silver image (film
and paper) produces a much higher quality picture. It may be 20 or 50 years
before digital photography can compete with a sliver image at a comparable
So why am I so excited? The reason is simple. This camera allows me to do
things that were impossible before.
But before I go into that, let me explain about the power of the photographic
image. A photograph is not great because of its technical qualities. While tonal
range and good resolution are desirable, many of the finest photographs are
grainy and far from perfect. Cartier-Bresson, who many think was the best of
all photographers, started using a 35mm camera (when few others did) not
because of its technical qualities but because of its portability and versatility.
The 35mm camera allowed him to take spontaneous pictures which captured
life in its full-blooded movement. The digital camera allows flexibility, instant
images and picture possibilities that did not exist earlier.
Since there is essentially no film cost, the digital camera allows you to shoot
whimsically over and over until you get it right. The cost never enters into your
The real-time visual image which shows you almost exactly what you are
getting, is a photographer's dream. You see the picture in color on an LCD
screen before you take it and also immediately after you take it. You can shoot
for ten minutes, review what you just shot, then shoot for another ten minutes.
This immediate feedback makes the digital camera a different kind of beast.
Also you can turn the lens around 180 degrees so that you can take self
-portraits and see accurately what you will get at the same time. Again this was
Want to see quick blow-ups of the pictures? Just plug the camera into a TV or
VCR connected to a TV and browse through the images on the TV.
Want to exhibit your work? Just put these pictures directly on the Internet
which is the greatest gallery imaginable for a photographer. The gallery is
accessible to anyone in the world who has an Internet connection, 24 hours a
day at very little cost. For computer literate people, the digital camera is much
less expensive, more spontaneous, easier to work with and easier to exhibit.
For those of us who have gotten tired of the road (the rut?) that academic
photography has taken, the black and white overworked images of super fine
resolution and large format, the digital camera brings photography back to life,
back into the streets.
In addition, contemporary photographers have become overly concerned with
the price of their photographs not the power of what they have to offer. Digital
images do not have the same commercial value which in our materialistic age
means they have less value. I welcome an art which takes us away from
dollars. But don't worry; if the art is truly great, galleries will find a way to
attach a price tag to it.
I feel that the deepest promise of still photography is a captured image of
pulsing life. Also still photography can and should add to and extend the
tradition of fine art. The digital camera and digital photography may bring us
back our senses.
P.S. A principle concern of contemporary academic photography has been the
length of time that a photographic image will last. Black and white photos have
a much longer life that color images so many schools and museums rejected
color photography. However, digital photography has, essentially, an infinite
life because information about the image is saved on a computer disk not the
image itself. While color monitors may fade, the computer file can always be
copied onto a disk or put on a CDROM and then displayed on a new color