A Brief Evolution of Art and the Influence of Technology on Photography

Art has become one of the most versatile and commonly used words used to describe forms of aesthetic appeal. It’s associated with things that are aligned, unaligned, proportionate, skewed, beautiful, and even disturbing; all of these traits aside, art has one definitive aspect: effectiveness. The goal is to make an impression, describe something that cannot be communicated in any other way, make the audience feel something incredible, and discover something new. Some have argued that art is an accident ordained by the Gods using the hand of mortals, others toil feverishly to perfect every last inch of whatever piece they have created, leaving no room for debate or Godly help; either way the “effectiveness” is there, taking just as many forms as it always did, and grasping just as many minds. So there in lays the newest, ancient, issue argued by artists, theorists and philosophers alike: Has technology tainted or enlightened art as a whole? Since art is an ambiguous term, the issue will prove to be a long standing and well established debate between knowledgeable, credible individuals.

Photography is an interesting form of artistic expression because of its vast difference from what most would call “fine art.” Photography began in the 1820’s with the very first photograph being taken by NiÃ?©pce, who joined forces with Louis Daguerre in developing the details of their project, entitled, the “Daguerreotype.”

Some people found the technology fascinating and as an opportunity to seize their chunk of a new innovation, since this new process of creating still life, long lasting images of things required no skill in drawing or painting. But, others with already existing artistic skills found the Daguerreotype threatening, and lacking of a true creative nature. Somehow, in between an exact portrait and an exact photograph, art found a home over, under and through both of these mediums. There is no debate today, for photography has established itself as a worthy form of artistic expression; effective no less than a painting or a sculpture.

Can Digital Photography be�Photography?

Most people became instantly enthralled with the idea of a Digital Camera because being able to see the picture before you take it is really “cool.” Let’s face it, humans are gluttons to the technology industry, biting off more than we can chew and chewing more than we can taste. But, photographers think of Digital Photography in a very different way. Just as portrait painters thought back in 1826: Will this new invention end my career as an artist?

Out of the Dark room and into the light?

The discussion is not whether or not Digital cameras should replace film; that is typically a matter of preference and purpose. Digital photography brings up issues that are far more enduring, issues that are not as simple to resolve. With Digital Photography, the concept of a true dark room is eliminated, and in its place: photo manipulation software. Whether you’re an amateur and you use the free photo suite program thrown in with your camera, or whether you’re a pro who use the latest most comprehensive techniques; there is no contest that the Digital tools allow more control over the final product.
This is considered a good thing, right? From an onlookers stand point, yes it is. But for an artist who specializes in the dark room and the techniques of film photography, these new innovations might prove to eliminate the essence of one’s specialization.

The art of photography relies heavily on the element of surprise, spontaneity, and sometimes even accident. Within a photo lies one single instance, possibly only existing for the one hundredth of a second that it took the camera to flash over the scene. Any experienced photographer will tell you that it is important to take as many pictures as possible to hopefully find that beautiful gem of a moment surrounded by other similar, but ordinary seconds of time. Digital technology now allows complete control over those sacred moments, and even opportunity to edit the photograph afterwards, possibly creating these moments, virtually. Has the accident of photography been one up-ed? Or has the true livelihood of photography been demolished and in its place something, too new?

Digital art and photography seem to be the reincarnation of what portrait painting was to original photography. In it lays a new sense of control and exact ability; much more like the control of paint on canvas, but much less like the well established medium, photography.

But, even paint on canvas can be controlled digitally. Using common illustration software such as creol draw, adobe illustrator, Maya, and many more, you can actually paint an entire oil painting using only an electronic pen hooked up to a pad. When things like painting and photography seem to define the entire realm of the art industry, the idea of a Digital tool doing these things more efficiently seems awfully overwhelming for a fine artist. So, herein lies the problem. As I said, this will be a long standing and worthy debate, but never effectual enough to take the true effect from any medium or form of art.
It is safe to say that art is not a win lose game, where one medium has the ability to “beat” another. No matter how similar Digital Photography and Photography seem to be, they are very different in their approaches and in their final outcome. Today, comparing a Portrait to a photograph is like comparing apples to oranges. They may look similar, but they taste, feel, are something very, very different. Art is a matter of expression, and there are infinite numbers of ways to express.

When art is approached in a different way, it is only progress; art is timeless and doesn’t fade away with the latest trend. It has been proven through the ages that art will change, and new styles of artistic expression only enhance the industry as a whole. The camera did not eliminate realistic painting, and technology will not eliminate the traditions of fine art.

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