Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reality and the digital photograph

Our experience of time and matter is simply an illusion and our perceptions are based on assumptions. Yet, we still believe what we see and we believe our interpretation of what we saw. We don't even know that we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this interpretation is reality, but in philosophy it's called naive realism.
Philosophy has rejected naive realism in every century since Plato and yet most of the people still act on the basis of naive realism.

We guess at our best knowledge based on our paradigms, but as a matter of fact we are trapped in a shadow world. At the end our reality and our attitude towards this real world still resembles Plato’s cave with the only difference, that our shadows have depth, an extra spatial dimension.
Photography projects reality onto a two-dimensional plane. The resulting three-dimensional objects, the photographic prints, are showing us the two-dimensional projections of a three-dimensional world that exists in the fourth and higher dimensions.

However, the digital image, without printing it out, is virtually non-material since these pictures are based on electronic fluxes and on abstract binary codes running in the background. Our visual perception is behaving in a very similar way;
Our visual system allows us to assimilate information from the environment. The act of seeing starts when the lens in our eye focuses an image of the surroundings onto a light-sensitive membrane in the back of the eye, on the retina. The retina is part of the brain. It is isolated and it acts as a converter. It converts patterns of light into neuronal, electric, signals. The lens of the eye focuses light on the photoreceptive cells of the retina, which detects the photons of light and respond by producing neural impulses.


I guess, based on the non-material, binary character of digital photography we could theoretically say, that the digital medium is a more accurate representation of our visual perception and reality than analog photography. Where complex chemical processes were involved in creating a print of colors and forms, which themselves are simply different wavelenghts of electromagnetic radiation and vibrating particles.