Wednesday, 12 April 2006

When an example is not exemplary

There is a blog I sometimes read, The Tao of digital photography. Recently it has featured 10 pictures which were important to the author's development of an aesthetics of photography, or Ten Epiphanous Photographs as he calls them.

What's interesting about this selection (apart from the photographs themselves) is how badly they come off from the blog format. André Kertész in real life is impressively sharp, well composed, atmospheric. Reduced to 200x160 pixels, it looks trivial, throw away, even whimsical. And if the author had chosen fine art photography in the tradition of the Bechers (like Gursky, or Struth, or Ruff, or possibly worst of all for easy reproducibility, Elger Esser), things would work even less well. This lead me to ponder how far the digital medium has to go in resolution terms. A good print at 3 feet by 2 has at least 300 pixels per inch, or roughly 10,000 by 7200. That's 72M pixels or over 2000 times more than the blog picture. For the Gurskys and such, they might easily be three times bigger in linear dimension, so the problem is ten times worse. Processing power might have increased by many orders of magnitude since the sixties, but display technology has not got more than a thousand times better. There's a way to go yet.

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