Everyone likes their PC. And anyone who has purchased, inherited, or illegally copied a piece of imaging software has enjoyed experimenting with distorting, morphing, hazing or otherwise manipulating their photographs. What’s better then being able to take a photograph of your older brother and make his nose swell like some pimple on steroids? Which makes photo manipulation a fine pastime and something that may keep little Bobby occupied until dinner is ready …
But just because you can manipulate an image does not mean you should.
A little jaunt to the Anderson-Foothill Library in SLC should be enough to show you why. Now on display at this branch of the city’s library system is a show entitled “Digital Imagery” with works by Tricia Dunn and Sherman Martin. The display shows a variety of digitally manipulated and printed photographs by both artists.
One of the first works you see is a piece done by Martin, which shows a photo of tulips in various states of modification. Martin explains, exuberantly, that the display shows “nine of an endless number of modifications that can be made to a photograph or piece of artwork.”
You’d think he was getting a kickback from the software companies.
Dunn’s work with the computer goes for a soft, blurred look, giving an impressionistic feel to the pieces. Her concentration on cafe scenes also reveals a further tie to the Impressionists. But anybody who has seen a Monet or Renoir in person rather than in a book will know what I’m talking about when I say it just isn’t the same thing. First of all, there’s no room for the nuances of human touch. It is a systematic impression, which is no impression at all. And it lacks the earthiness of paint.
Martin runs into the same problem. In one image he has taken a picture of a house with flowers in the foreground and — click — given it a watercolor effect. Except you can tell there was no water and no color involved.
Painting is beautiful because of the materials it uses. And photography has its own beauty, with its own materials. But with the computer — at least in these digitized images — all you get is a dull imitation of both.
Maybe there are artists who can effectively use the computer as a means of expression. This exhibit, however, demonstrates the danger of a technology that is to easy to use. One can be seduced by the possibilities and forget the artistic part of being an artist. Something so easy requires little effort. And little effort may mean little thought and little feeling.
Which makes for little art.
This article appeared in the November 2001 edition of 15 Bytes.
Kasey Boone is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has been living in Utah since 1990. He has a BA in French and Cultural Studies. He is a self-described “orphaned post-modernist.”