Nemo Memo: Digital Art? Where Art Thou?


Nemo Memo: Digital Art? Where Art Thou?

This article by John Nemerovski appears in the Summer, 2004 issue (Volume 4: 3) of PaperWorks Journal,a quarterly publication of PaperWorks, the Sonoran Collective for Paper & Book Artists,in Tucson, Arizona. The editor agrees to have it published here in

The emphasis in digital photography instruction is that every photographic image will benefit from a small, moderate, or substantial amount of fixing and tweaking. Should we be shocked and surprised when our teachers insist pictures that look perfect on a computer monitor require enhancement?

Many of us are traditional photographers who respect the integrity of original images, and who don’t necessarily want to tinker with them if they are top-quality pictures straight out of the camera. As we migrate from 35mm film to digital photography, it’s time to question the purity of pictures that owe their impact or emotional content to computer manipulation.

Judging a camera club competition last month, I was stunned when obvious digital prints were included among the majority of “traditional” photos. Having to shift gears in order to evaluate “fake” images alongside “real” ones, I was uncomfortable rating them using the same criteria.

What’s Real? What’s Fake? When Does It Matter?

Conventional film photos (prints and slides) are physical objects that can range from being devastatingly powerful to numbingly banal, but they are all tangible pictures. Digital originals offer the benefits of immediate results, with the potential to have content value equal to their tactile cousins. But digi-pics rarely proceed directly from camera to final print, because they beg their makers to play with them.

We [PaperWorks members] frequently incorporate photographic imagery (as opposed to original artwork) into our projects. Scanning is typically used for this purpose. Over time we’ll think nothing of having our digital cameras handy for image creation, once digi-cams and scanners become tools as common as scissors, glue, and brushes.

The “Q” Word

Don’t be so absorbed in your evolving technology adoption that you lose sight of what really matters. QUALITY IN = QUALITY OUT. Just as a terrific song can work its magic while playing on a car radio, so will your best images shine forth from your paper projects regardless of how they came into being.

When computers and digital devices work to our advantage they can extend our artistic reach into exciting new directions. But how much energy and time are you prepared to spend getting the darn things to work?

Have confidence in yourself as an image maker. Use every tool and method available, and keep learning from experts and friends. Technology is a fickle colleague, even for those of us who use it all day every day. Devote your enthusiasm and imagination toward original, meaningful paper projects in which your spirit and voice present themselves for all the world to embrace.


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