I am about as anti-digital as you can get short of Nottinghamshire circa November 1811.
In the broadest strokes my grudge distills to rejecting the commonplace assumption that since the physical process and user interfaces involved in making a photograph and a digital image is similar, there exists an interchangeable equivalency between them.
Analog photography produces a physical artifact representing a moment in time. That resulting artifact—negative or positive—stands in relationship to both the moment of creation and all subsequent retellings.
Digital image making translates light into a phenomenally long string of ones and zeros.
As a result of these differences, each process responds differently to similar situations.
- Digital can’t handle overexposure; negative stocks benefit from mild overexposure.
- Digital has immense depth of field even large apertures; film shot using fast lens with the aperture fully open have a narrow depth of field (DOF).
- Digital makes it easier to capture an image in low-light settings as result of its extended DOF; however, digital is incapable (and will always fall short) of rendering a true black.
Digital works best when its limitations are embraced instead of obfuscated. (Recall the scenes in Zodiac where they are driving around at night and nothing is really dark so much as murky vs. The Social Network where wide open prime lenses stopped down to the correct aperture using ND filters in an effort to create a more filmic DOF and instead resulted in emphasizing the deathly plastic pallor digital imposes on everything and looked less like film.)
As much as a detest digital, there are a small group of people who embracing the multifarious shortcomings of digital and do interesting things.
- Noah Kalina has created a cottage industry using the sweet spot just inside to digital overexposure margine for fashion editorial work.
- Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth is one of the few instances wherein digital proved superior to film.
After seeing the image above and how it employs the same deathly plastic pallor I loathe so much in digital as a hyper-stylized means of conveying the ethereally phantasmal splendor of fading light on still water and wet skin.