Monday, April 19, 2010

More people are taking more lousy photographs, just as more people are writing vanity pages for their inarticulate acts of self-expression. The same small percentage are doing something interesting, but it's a percentage of a larger number, and that leads to other changes.

Photography is changing. Dodging and burning with the wave of a scrap of paper if you're good at it is a form of handcraft. Digital photography is less precise than traditional photography, as photography is less precise than drawing; an electronic keyboard is less precise than a piano, as a piano is less precise than the act of bowing a violin. But fiddle players are compared to singers while pianists are conductors. Every form has its strengths and limitations.

The most important visual art in the digital age is narrative. Film, now video, is a series of imprecise images strung together. But just as 200 pages of prose can leave as powerful an impression as a stanza of poetry, a movie can be as powerful as a photograph, if not more so.

Walking into the AIPAD show a few years ago I saw a well dressed man talking excitedly to a friend as they came through the entrance. "Remember, it's not the image... It's the material!" That's the best description I've heard of how to look at a photographic print.

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