0’s and 1’s, Yes or No!

Ray-O-Gram, 2011. Would Man Ray have approved?

If photographers were scientists we would still be looking at the night sky and wondering what those little dots of light were. As a group, I suppose like many groups, we are resistant to change. I remember when The Nikon F2 was introduced. What an uproar! “Why did they ruin a good thing?”, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken”, “what can it do that my workhorse F can’t do? Then, everybody had one. The F3 came out, same reaction. Then the F4, blah, blah, blah. That seems to have changed in the digital age. Long lists exist for the new Canon which won’t be delivered until March, and based on past performance, that means July. Everyone wants the latest handheld photo computer, and by that I mean camera, to turn over the responsibility of figuring out how to take a good picture. But as cranky as this sounds, I’m on the waiting list. I actually like the Digital Age, and got my first DSLR in 1999. At first I would quietly mention on conference calls that I wanted to shoot digitally…art directors balked. Slowly, acquiesced. And now it is just assumed, since so many art directors only know digital photography.


But this brings up a question I’ve had for a while. If the icons of photography were around now, would they embrace the digital image? Would Cartier-Bresson  have thought “nice picture of a kid, but if I put a coupla bottles of wine in his hands in Photoshop…wow, a real winner!” How about Steichen’s 36 hour exposure of apples and pears? He took it on a darken porch so that the time and change in temperature would make the fruit move ever so slightly during the exposure. Would he have simply added Gaussian Blur in post, if he was shooting today? Would Ansel Adams have used an electronic greyscaleto get the perfect Zone System  to correct for a bad exposure? Today

everyone can take photographs as perfect and as boring as Ansel without even knowing the Zone System. Would Robert Mapplethorpe have used Transform>Scale to make his Penis Photos more startling? (Probably not, sort of like “coals to Newcastle”!)


I don’t know. I hope not, but maybe. Afterall, Edweard Muybridge was adding night skies and false moons to his landscapes in 1868. Of course, he is best know for his naked motion studies. The fact that he murdered his wife’s lover in a jealous rage, got off, and then immediately abandoned his wife and child  for Central America are just historical asides.


So, what do you think? Is it just the eye that counts? Does the artistic end justify the means? When you have your mind made up, let’s talk about Mozart? Would he have written his music on an electronic keyboard if one had been around?

2 Responses to “0’s and 1’s, Yes or No!”

  • Monica Casey

    So Bruce: Very long time, where did you disappear to? I wasthinking about sending some late Christmas cards, feeling a bit sentimental and so, there you were! Lily sometimes wonders how Olivia is, and we all wonder how you and your family are. Charlotte graduated in June and is now working for a health care consulting company in Boston. Lucky girl! I teach ESL at Westchester Community College and Paul…well Paul is just fine. Lily says he’s “quietly funny” and I have to agree. Give my best to Laurie and the children and my best to you. Monica

  • Pete Stone

    Never heard the Muybridge story……..wow!

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