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In the darkling wood

Why do I mess with my photographs the way I do?  I’m not sure I know myself.  When I was young I had a darkroom in the basement.  I learned the techniques of burning, dodging, and retouching, but I never really felt the kind of control I wanted over those images.  The photos often fell a little short of what I thought they might have been.  With color films, this feeling of not having sufficient control over the images increased exponentially because of the increased complexity of the processes involved.

Digital Imaging has changed all this.  Now my pictures are minutely controllable, pixel by pixel.  Color, composition, exposure, contrast, and a host of other properties can be adjusted, locally or globally.  I can bring each photo to almost exactly the point I feel it wants to go.  I can be completely satisfied with the final digital image far more often than I ever could with straight photographs.

Not every image is intended to be art, of course.  Many photographs, like the ones in the family album, are there to record our lives, help us remember the past as it recedes, and introduce our children to the relatives they cannot meet.  Their purpose is representational, not artistic.  People want to look their best in these photos, of course, and Lightroom and Photoshop can help with that, too, but basic snapshots that document memories serve the family album well.

Images that were meant to be art are different. They can be so much more with their propeerties are manipulated with a aesthetic guiding eye.  And this digial  art is only just beginning.  Compare the snapshots you took with your first digital camera to the vast and scalable vistas in a modern role-playing video game, through which you can wander almost as if they were three-dimensional spaces.  A couple of decades wrought that change.  Who knows what wonderful electronic art we will be seeing a couple more decades down the road.