Digitisation & Fulfilment in Photography

Why film is the solution to diminishing human involvement in the photographic process.

Berlin © Neal Gruer

Digital v Film

Undoubtedly, digital photography is inherently more versatile than film. Part of this comes from the ability to significantly and easily alter an image long after it was taken, but so much comes from the electronic power and computational assistance of the camera itself — autofocus, auto lens stabilization, auto (and very high) sensitivity to light (ISO), auto-metering, auto-this, auto-that, auto-everything you like. Add to this the immense storage capacity of a single memory card and a photographer needs to do little more than point the camera and press the button.

Istanbul © Neal Gruer

Hands Stimulate the Mind

Obstinate socio-political debates aside, the precipitous increase in automated photography (commensurate with steeply decreasing human involvement in picture-taking) dramatically changes photography’s capacity to be fulfilling for the photographer. There is a deep connection between what we do with our hands and how we learn, remember and interpret information. A useful hypothetical comparator is handwriting. Numerous studies have identified its cognitive benefits. In one such study, writing notes in a lecture was found to be advantageous over typing:

Bucharest © Neal Gruer
Athens © Neal Gruer

Technology Tips Towards Zero

Furthermore, accepting digitisation in photography becomes a slippery slope. With every incremental improvement, every subtle innovation, human involvement gets closer to being removed entirely.

  1. Arsenal then finds great settings by comparing the current scene with thousands of professional photos using a convolutional deep neural network.
  2. Lastly, Arsenal optimizes settings based on 18 different factors, like hyperfocal distance, sensor dynamic range and lens transmission.
Zagreb © Neal Gruer

Importance of the Artistic Process

Considering most artworks never gain a wide audience (or any audience at all), art’s true essence must lie in the process undertaken by the artist, rather than a beholder’s observation of the completed artwork. If human involvement decreases in the process of making art, the artist is denied the opportunity for maximal human experience. Consequently, their artworks are denied the maximum potential expression of what it means to be human, making them spiritually and philosophically less valuable.

Helsinki © Neal Gruer
Berlin | © Neal Gruer

Scottish-Ghanaian writer, photographer and former lawyer; currently based in Bucharest, Romania.

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