History of Photography

H of P Seminars
Critical Studies
E. Chambre Hardman


Critical Studies


7. A Contemporary Language for Photography

How many numbers does it take to define a photograph ?

Roughly 20 million numbers can record all of the information on a single 35mm black & white negative, where each number has a value between 0 and 255" (Holzmann 1988, p.8)

The Charged-Coupled Device (C.C.D.), patented Bell Labs December 31st 1974, has revolutionised the making of photographs.By packing thousands of these CCD devices onto a piece of silicon an image sensor can be constructed that can instantly sample and encode an image.

Digital photography, multimedia and cyberculture have now been added to the critical agenda. Working with digital technology is having a dramatic effect on "classical" photography and many contemporary writers have sought to address areas of particular concern.

" Freehand sketching for example is a mostly nonalgorithmic process, every freely made mark that the artist chooses to execute is the realisation of an intention and the result is usually something that has a strong personal character. Prestige attaches to skillfull and accurate work of this kind: not everybody can do it. But when an artist traces a form ... or uses a camera obscura the process has a much more algorithmic character, there is little prestige to be had through accuracy. Potentialy a digital photograph stands at any point on the spectrum from algorithmic to intentional."William J. Mitchell The Reconfigured Eye (1992)p.30.

Mitchell proposes that digital photography, while a revolution in technique, can also be seen as a continuity of the Renaissance quest for total perspective control.

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