How Digital Has Reinvented An Art Form

NikkormatFN and Nikon D90
Digital has a reputation for disrupting industries.

Music, journalism, and broadcast television, to name a few, have become reinterpreted at the hands of digital. As consumers demand how and when they want their content, old dogs must learn new tricks to modernize.

But that evolution doesn’t just destroy antiquated business models, it also affects individuals.  For example, my mother and I are both photography buffs.  I’ve really appreciated watching her passion and photographic talent throughout the years. Her hobby has preserved some of the most precious moments we’ve experienced together as a family and has inspired me to do the same. But her learning experience and social experience with photography is very different from my own.

Digital has created a sea of changes in the social and physical aspects of photography and, as such, has changed the photography landscape entirely. Compare our photography workflow over a 2+ decade gap.

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What took mom 2 weeks in the 80’s takes me less than 2 hours today. Thanks to digital, I can now touch up pictures minutes after they were shot, upload to a photo community like Flickr, and share with friends in moments. Just after your upload is complete, your photos are part of a global community of millions of users and billions of photos.  Where previously, the value of a photo was largely contained within the print (and the family photo album) today’s value has shifted into the social sphere – where the digital image is most valuable and it lives in a non-physical medium of 1’s and 0’s.

The advancement of digital photography has removed much of the frustration of photography as well. I love the instant gratification of reviewing my photo on an LCD screen instantly to then refocus, reshoot, reposition or move on. There’s no need to take note of settings to recreate techniques you liked as your metadata will serve as a reference for as long as you keep the file. Gone are the days of wasting frames or fearing you may accidentally expose your film. How empowering…

Photography has transformed from a art medium more akin to painting, where time and patience are necessary to achieve the desired result, to a much more fluid, instant-gratification art form.  This has had the simultaneous effect of making the art more accessible, but also radically altering the individual value of a photograph.

Almost three decades later, the great news is that my mom has fully embraced the digital evolution. We now shoot with dueling Nikon DSLRs. Additionally, she’s taken our analog memories from my childhood, and before and converted them to digital by scanning in shoeboxes full of negatives, restoring and color correcting.

Who knows, maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.