The Rocky Road From Silver To Silicon                     A                    As it appeared in Photo Life magazine


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                                                                                   (photo: Joy Gerow)

What Michaelangelo saw in a block of stone,

What Van Gogh saw in a landscape,

What Warhol saw in a can of soup.

“Visual Bandwidth” is a term I coined to defend the criticism that digital imaging is not photography. I define Visual Bandwidth as: The two-lane visual highway of input and output. 

Realizing that artists working in other mediums employ their full cognitive bandwidths to gain inspiration to create their output, it reminded me of the limits silver halide photographers experience. 

Of course, there were and are great halide photographers, but given the ability to output their message with the same visual bandwidth as other mediums, is limited. Here’s why and how photographers come up short.

If a painter, working with canvas and brush before a landscape, imagines that scene with billowy clouds and azure blue sky, even though it’s overcast, all the artist has to do is paint-in their imaginary sky. And, if not satisfied with that new sky, it can be repainted over and over until the sky satisfies the artist’s imagination. 

It’s basically the same output bandwidth enjoyed by sculptors, writers, musicians, etc.

Bottom line: artists of all other media always have had a greater ability to modify, augment or create-from-scratch, except us photographers.

But photographers are artists too. We see and emotionalize as any other artist, but the data recorded by the camera is bottlenecked to a limited output that cannot be fully and easily massaged, re-thought or re-rendered to equate output to input. (This point is debatable, as the limitations of halide photography may very well be a magic ingredient, i.e. less is more). 

However, at this very moment, photography is experiencing an evolutionary “big bang.” In the writer’s opinion, the advent of digital capture and the myriad subsequent innovations, have enlarged the photographer’s output skill-set and communicative potential to equal that of other artistic mediums.

My new reality (and that of other digital photographers) is: whatever data I capture is converted to a temporary means-to-an-end…to “digital limbo.” At this juncture, I then have the freedom to, a) output as-is or, b) use it as a stepping-stone to another realization. 

For me, my captured image, if I choose, often leads me through many creative keyholes, epiphanies and transitions, to undiscovered and unreachable visual ends. Like artists in other mediums, my original stimuli from the visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile input bandwidths can now get re-thought, modified, massaged and/or re-rendered many times on its way to “finished art.”

Today, our photographic output skill-and-tool-set has been enhanced or enlarged by the myriad of computer tools.

Where once we could only think out of the envelope, now we can create out of the envelope.

My digital output is richer and there is more of me in it, thanks to my expanded output bandwidth.

Fact: art is all about change; check your art history. It’s no different today. It’s up to the digital photographers to be the agents of change and innovation.

Now that we are further empowered and able to expand our output visual bandwidth, aren’t we now in league with Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Hemingway or Mozart?


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Photo credit :  Joy Gerow, http://www.flickr.com/photos/joygerowphoto/

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