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Digital Photography and the Savage in Art
Article and essay about digital photography, contemporary art, expressionism and experimentation
by Rick Doble

ESSAY by Rick Doble

Computers allow us to create perfect copy. Type is justified, everything lines up, photographs are precise.

While this exactness may be good for making brochures, it is not necessary or even desirable when it comes to making art.

Computers and digital technology can be very dangerous and seductive because they allow endless manipulation, an endless quest for perfection. If an artist does not have a clear idea of what he or she is after the image will probably fail.

In the 1950's the New York abstract expressionists created a uniquely American art that had a somewhat unfinished look. It was raw and crude.

The excitement of Jackson Pollock's paintings or the graphic images of Franz Kline came in part from their rough and ready appearance. When you see a Pollock painting, you want to touch the paint; it feels a little messy -- it is so real, so tactile, so sensual.

Good or great art is more that technology or technique, although these can be important contributing factors. To create truly meaningful art, the artist needs to have a vision of what he or she is trying to say or a sense of the effect that the art should have on viewers.

My particular vision is to create a digital photographic art which is a playful and spontaneous -- a bit rude, a bit crude and in your face. I want it to feel like real life, like cinema verite. I want the viewer to know that I took a picture of a real scene at a specific time under a particular light and with my feelings of the moment.

Although my digital photographs are of the real world, I like to push the digital process to its extreme limits with various techniques such as low light exposure and camera movement.

As I have written before, digital photography has the potential to be a personal expressionist art form, that allows individuals the means to say things visually that have been impossible before.

Because it is relatively cheap and can be displayed to a world wide audience on the Internet, it is within the reach of a large number of people and has the potential to involve and reach thousands if not millions.

The French thinker Julia Kristeva has said that today there is a threat to our psychic space and that people do not have a means of expressing what is happening to them. She said that there are "new maladies of the soul." Modern humans have a problem "expressing problems in words and images."

With the right attitude, digital photography has the power to express our deepest and most personal dreams. And I believe that it has the ability to create art work which is as moving and beautiful as the cave drawings at Lascaux or the paintings of vanGogh.

POEM by Rick Doble

(Note: In twilight pixels change back and forth
from color to darker color as the sky fades and
as I frame the scene for my next shot
on the LCD screen of my digital camera.)

---"I often think the night is more alive
and more richly coloured than the day."

Vincent vanGogh to his brother Theo
Letter 533, Arles, 8 September 1888


On the edge of darkness
I have seen the twilight sky
do it's digital dance
in real time --
pixels pulsing from
cerulean blue to black
on my LCD screen --
vanGogh's deepest colors
outside his cafe in the evening
or his starry starry night.

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© Copyright 2002 by Richard deGaris Doble
All rights reserved.