The Digital Condition of Photography

In his essay, 'The Digital Condition of Photography: Cameras, computers and display', David Bate (2013, 78) sets himself apart from the critics and supporters of 'digital culture', by stating another position that:

enquires into and considers the specific 'digital' condition of the photographic image in relation to the social identity of 'photography' as a system for the inscription of visual images.

On reflection, I can see how different generations could attribute a different 'social identity' to photography. I can still remember receiving an envelope containing my photographic prints, after waiting an hour for them to be developed. The strip of negatives, included in the packet, was a reminder of the darkroom process that had been necessary to make the exposures. There was always a sense of excitement to look at photographs, which had been taken so long ago, that it was a surprise to see what they were. There was also a sense of despair when some of the prints included quality control stickers because they were blurred, underexposed or overexposed. I wonder how many moments have been consigned to the bin, unseen again. 

Today's digital generation have never known anything different. After taking a photo, they can instantly review, save or delete it. They have an abundance of opportunities to capture the right image, which has the potential to be shared across the world. Today's digital society is drowning in a sea of images, which are being produced as quickly as water flowing from a tap. Bate (2013) recognises how the permeation of images across society blurs the distinguishing features of photographic practices.

Exercise 3.3: Breaking the news?

Mobile phones now come with a decent camera and and internet capabilities as standard. Most people now have the capability of a mobile broadcasting unit in their pocket. Everyone’s a photographer and a photojournalist.

Before this advance in digital technology, any newsworthy images would have been taken by seasoned professionals who would have abided by their own ethical standards. The tabloids would also have had a loyal readership, so the need for sensationalism was not as paramount.

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