Say Cheeeeeese

I recently entered a competition on lomography through the lovely Oh Comely which got me thinking about the differences between film and digital.

The last decade in contemporary culture has seen a return to film, favouring its grainy romantic and nostalgic look.

Which got me thinking about why. Do we now see the photograph as a piece of art and/or an accessory? A representation of our culture and our fashion?

Let’s take a look.

A return to film is most definitely wrapped up in our current culture’s return to ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ items, suggesting we have nowhere left to go and so we must return to previous fashions, reinventing and rejuvenating them. And this isn’t a bad thing (as long as we go back far enough…)

However in film it’s a bit different. No expert on camera, film or photographic history, all I know is I prefer a photo to look like a photo.

This made me think of Baudrillard. Do we like Baudrillard celebrate the distance from the real, the hyperreality – noting the photograph is the “purest and the most artificial exposition of the image”. Thus, appreciating that the reality of the photograph is its very unreal qualities, again its ‘piece of art’ qualities and therefore find it a more truthful artefact overall?

Baudrillard didn’t quite say what I’ve said; it may be a misunderstanding on my part and an interpretation of what he has written. However, Baudrillard had a lot to say about the photograph, the image and the phases of photography.

Baudrillard’s idea that, “It is a paradox that the lack of objectivity of the world is disclosed by the photographic lens” is sort of what I’m getting at. We have a memory, which we sometimes confuse with a reality and a truth (one which Baudrillard questions can ever exist favouring a hyperreality) and which maybe cannot be represented through the photograph because it is an image, one that has passed and is only a representation of something going through our own individual processing.

But is that what makes a photograph? A memory and just that? A representation?

This doesn’t mean the photograph is 100% unreal but maybe it cannot be trusted, just like our own memory. We know where we stand with the film photograph. And this is sort of my gripe with the digital camera, suggesting we can now have a higher version and vision of real life – the real that maybe cannot trully be in a photograph…but this is getting confusing.

The digital camera is a notable, brilliant invention (unless you’re kodak). But sometimes it gives us an image, especially when we photograph people, of a higher quality, an unkind quality that doesn’t feel nostalgic but instead very real. At the risk of contradicting myself, the digital photograph is sometimes too real or maybe too vivid. A moment that hasn’t be captured but suspended in its detail. Whether or not this is possible, do we really want that?

digital win

Settings have even been invented to give our digital images a nostalgic feel. Black and White, Polaroid borders and grainy lens’. And settings have also been invented to advance the quality of photography.

Digital cameras can capture extraordinary detail. Photo’s I’ve taken would not have been possible had I not had a digital camera and so I think there needs to be a balance.

Maybe it’s becasue I’m getting older and lines are creeping in, things are slowly sagging (sorry), or maybe it’s because I’m also wrapped up in the fashionable vintage culture that I’m thinking about the difference.

But I think the most important difference is that sometimes, and more importantly, you can miss the real moment taking photographs and instantly reviewing them, a passed time and reality.

Let the photograph do that for you.

I’ll leave the final word with Laura Hocking who also seems to put it a little better and prettier than I.

Say cheese!

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2 thoughts on “Say Cheeeeeese

  1. adam says:

    i think the challenge for an artist is to find something specific about the medium he uses in which to speak, to manipulate and communicate effectively. it seems to me that digital technology has a great capacity to reproduce other art forms, but it’s own language is obscured somewhat. The challenge i guess is to find some worth in that transparency, make it relevant, rather than just a copy of things that have passed.

    on the subject of photographs i remember really enjoying Roland Barthes Camera Lucida, which is all about trying to capture the past through looking.

    nice article:)

  2. kathryn_shhh says:

    Yeah, I agree. I think it is a bit confused because it’s trying to be vey current but also very nostalgic in some ways so yeah you’e right. I don’t know how you change that. I got myself in a bit of a muddle writing this (which I’m sure is clear!) but I think I just sort of mean I like a photograph. One of the biggest shames of the digital photo is people rarely print them out anymore and maybe that changes it’s meaning a bit? I don’t know!

    And thanks for the tip. Will have a read as I’m sure I’ve read something else of his and enjoyed it. Glad you enjoyed reading x

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