Digital is easy

April 07, 2006 in Art as a professiontopics:

In his blog, The Online Photographer, Mike Johnston commented that only a small percentage of auction house sales of contemporary prints were made digitally. In response, someone called Photo-essayist snarkily said:

“If manipulation is intended, then we recognize the craftsmanship required in a darkroom approach. It takes a master to do it well. Comparable digital manipulation requires an eleven-year old.”

Huh. Really. I have heard such statements through all my years of being a digital artsist, and they always make me laugh. Such a statement shows a strong naivete about digital technique. Anyone who claims “digital is easy” does not understand the knowledge and skill which is required to do it well. I have been studying and exploring digital darkroom work for over 15 years. I’ve been doing digital artwork for over 20. And yet every day I learn more. Ever day, I get better. Sure, some digital manipulation is very easy to do (like the ubiquitous “photo turned into watercolor” look). But that has no bearing on the validity and challenge of serious digital photography. Similarly, a video camera may be easy to handle, but there is a clear difference between a video shot by an eleven-year old and a master like Roger Deakins.

Digital’s “low cost of entry” is perhaps one of its greatest challenges. It is quite easy to do something perfectly adequate, and many people never move beyond the basics of digital work, and many critics never exercise their mind to see what is possible beyond that. But creating something of subtlety and grace requires skill, vision, talent.

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