Don’t Judge a Book by Its Input Method

Posted on August 18, 2011


People still talk a lot of about digital “versus” film photography.  I think they are missing the point.

It’s kind of like arguing if a book written on a computer is different than one written long-hand. It’s not the tool that capture the data, it’s the tool that outputs it. So while I read a lot of text on a computer and look at a lot of pictures there, I don’t think a book on a Kindle will ever compete aesthetically with a well-designed, grid-based book printed on luscious stock with beautiful typography.  (I actually chose the theme for this site based on its typography, and you can’t sit down in my house without being in reach of a book on design.)

I love book design, it enhances the experience

In the former case, the data is the end product, in the latter case the medium is just as important. Likewise in photography, there are tons of images where the computer is a fine final resting place, but they will never have the visceral impact of a print that is so masterfully done  you want to reach out and touch it. And if they ever do, I”m not sure that is a world I want to be in.

I believe it’s in the print where the artist really gets a chance to fully express themselves, and that this is why alternative processes are probably at an all time high. Not because digital has superseded them, but because it has enabled them. The people working in these mediums are really working against the mass-produced ubiquity that is synonymous with digital photography for most people and seems to have lessened the value of the medium.

Take some time, check out a photography show. The best parts of the Microsoft art collection are arguably its photographic prints. Some buildings have museum-quality collections. In Seattle,  you can still see Edward Curtis prints near his original gallery. He has an amazing history, devoting his life to recording the last of the American Indians in twenty volumes. The effort ruined him physically, emotionally, and financially and the work really should be appreciated.  PCNW, not only has intriguing shows, but you can also buy prints by students at great prices.