Film vs Digital vs Creativity

This is really an extension of thoughts that have arisen from the very long filmic post.
Photography has always been a creative pursuit. Photographs never have and never will look like nature. We, each of us, develop a personal style that to some extent has a foundation on the equipment and materials that we use and as times change our output also changes.
We can always try to emulate the style or manner of other persons or other materials but by doing so we miss the point that it is our personal style that is most important.
In a recent post there was mention of Adams … I hope that there is nobody who feels that his work is in any way an emulation of the nature that he captured on film. This was absolute creativity. We need to remember that we should not think in terms of recording … only creating at a very personal level.


Define “creativity” first…

Photography was, at first, a reproduction technic and was presented as such by Nicéphore Niepce at the French Sciences Academy. Like a better kind of lithography. The interpretation of photography as “painting with light” is anachronic with its inception.

In photography, no matter what we are doing, we are always bounded by the technics. Optics, chemistry, now electronics and bits.

Once that settled, we create inside these bounds. But what is creation ? Being 100% original ? 80% ? At least 50% ? Or simply making something ? Is it even possible to be 100% original when we live in a civilization where we are, one way or another, exposed to visual communication, thus, under influence ? And, that is assuming there is a metric to originality.

Ansel Adams has done outstanding contributions with the zone system, on the technical side, and the F/64 movement, on the artistic side. And was a first-class pianist too. But F/64 was kind of a reaction to the pictorialists nausea. Maybe not an emulation of a style, but surely taking the counterpart of a fashion. So, not something out of nowhere.

So now, what is “absolute creativity” ? The whole creation concept is a religious one. Only God creates (as long as you believe).

I think we need to desacrate the whole creativity thing. I don’t think there is such thing as “absolute creativity” out of the Bible. There are guys making stuff. And that is enough in itself.

So, some observations:

I have never read a sentence containing that sequence of words that held true after doing some research.

I would say it’s like litterature. You know it’s fake, but you are hooked just the same as long as there is some credibility in it. So nobody is looking for natural look, but rather for credible likelihood.

Deciding what is personal and what is not is making assumptions on one’s intimate events and is a very slippery slope. Besides, Adams was not the only one in F/64, so it seems a collective effort.

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I think by their nature they’ve strived to look like the scene.

Art has long had a niche that endeavored to depict the scene as realistically as posssible. For example, Carvaggio’s works are rooted in a chase of the light, color, and perspective of the scene. The camera obscura was all about recording the scene in a means more faithful than the spatial interpretation of the artist. Chemical (film) photography was engineered to be as faithful to the scene as possible. Digital photography in its early days was held to the yardstick of film; I distinctly remember the journalism around the achievement of digital image resolution that equated to the resolution of film.

But you’re essentially correct, for all that photographs are still just an approximation of nature. But I think the struggle of the endeavor to attain realism provides a baseline for creative interpretation. My predominate work is to record faithfully, but I’ll occasionally pore over old images and work selected ones into something interpretive. Here’s one:


In the original capture, he’s not even looking at the camera. I’ve also had a lot of fun with over-saturation…

Photography as a mechanism strives to produce realistic depictions, measuring and rendering the light of a scene. What we do with that is interpretive…

That was a bit of a turn. :confused: Could you please elaborate on what you mean?

I think we need to stop seeing sacred things, trying to make things grand, finding big purposes or deep meanings when there is no need to and no evidence there are some. Take the work, enjoy, shut up. Don’t make up stories on how it’s deeply meaningful, absolutely personal and so on. They are most likely going to be fake.

During the Renaissance, artists thought they were only carving the latent masterpiece that was already contained in the medium, because only God could have done such great work. (I’m not a believer, but bear with me). So art would be something external, a sort of quest to carve something that was in the matter.

Now, everything is about me, I and myself. So art has to be profoundly personal and deeply meaningful. And it’s kind of ridiculous to look for so much spirituality in art now, while our societies are mostly secular and religions have lost much ground.

Whenever I go to an exhibition, there are always the same twats that try to use complicated words to describe how they feel looking at that painting, and it’s always to show how much culture and awareness they have (always more than the others), so at the end it’s show-off and pointless.

I hope your use of twat is the British vernacular for “fool”. :wink:

Isn’t finding big purposes or larger meanings the same goals as science and philosophy? Humans have always sought an understanding or meaning in things. For longer than modern science they’ve used art as a way to do that (and still do).

The thing about the renaissance artists and revealing the latent masterpieces is that we still don’t know if they were right or wrong. :slight_smile:

I’d say any art is intimately associated with being meaningful in some way to the admirer. Even if that meaning is simply that they enjoy looking at it. It’s still meaning.

Out of curiosity, why do you go to exhibitions? You must derive something from visiting and viewing these artworks. Something beyond the purely objective ability to robotically note that a thing exists…

I understand rebelling against pretentiousness from some people. But for every pretentious person there’s likely many more people that derive joy or pleasure and are quietly enjoying art.

Don’t denigrate or demean their experience if you can’t empathize with them. Maybe see first if there’s something more interesting going on that might be cool to take part in! :smiley:

(Also sorry for any misspelling or grammar, I’m on my phone and really wish I had a proper keyboard as this is a topic I’d love to explore with everyone.)


I’m on mobile at the moment, but if you get a chance check out Adams contact prints for “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”. It’s really interesting to see how his print of that image evolved to become what most people see today.

(Found one):

What most people see:


If you have have a chance to see this print in person, it is spectacular. The tone and nuance in the detail is amazing.

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The word ‘absolute’ was not mentioned in my opening piece … don’t push your luck!

My understanding of creativity is when one tries to express a personal point of view rather than melding in some common mode. Digital photography provides an incredible toolbox for discovery and yet the clamor for preset styles maintains a paint-by-numbers mentality with so many who practice.

Is there another meaning in the US ? Duplicate English is difficult for foreigners…

I won’t speak for philosophy, but science is not about finding meaning. And you should be careful when it is. Science is about figuring out how things are connected in the material world: very narrow field of competence where perceptions and evidence are available. There are dozens of topics upon which science recuses itself: everything outside of the sensible world where evidence can’t be collected. Meaning is for metaphysics perhaps. Or religions.

And this is what I call human arrogance. As if things had to have meaning. As if things could not happen just because they happen. As if randomness was no option. Wait… that would mean humans are not that special after all, or choosen, or better than livestock. Oooops !

It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about how artists see their own work, and how this has changed now.

I like it when people show me my things in a way I didn’t thought. Or show me things I didn’t notice. Or maybe just surprise me. I go out of curiousity.

It’s not about denigrating their experience, it’s about pointing that they are not here to see, they are here to be seen, and to show they are better than the average while not doing anything else but posing as art enthousiasts.

English might be my 3rd language, but I still know how to read. :wink:

presets = aesthetics
aesthetics ≠ meaning
hence presets ≠ meaning
thus presets ≠ (non)creativity

Also digital pictures are arrays of RGB numbers. And digital is kind of an alien way to make pictures (film and human vision share the same logarithmic sensitivity to lightness + high/low-light compression, but digital is linear, hence S curves and log encodings in digital, to make it look pretty). So "paint-by-numbers " is exactly how you turn RGB arrays into images.

Back in the days, your look was pretty much decided by the film emulsion you used, and the developer you took to process the film. That didn’t prevent photographers from being creative on the content. Content being vantage point, composition, framing, colors, accessories, people, symbols, references, jokes… So, reducing creativity to a look is kind of the opposite of the point you are trying to make.

The perception of the world that each of us makes is shaped by two aspects: our biological “shell” (our limited senses of perception) that we have biologically inherited combined with cultural imprint that we have socially “inherited”.

And since there can be no perfect copy under such conditions, it is already clear - alone for this reason - that everyone can only perceive the world individually and is almost a miracle that we are able to communicate about it at all :smile:

This is how social imprinting works. There’s a reason we’re trying to “emulate” things - they’re appealing to us individually. Just the selection of what we are trying to emulate is a sign that something has entered our individual “internal” world and we are trying to deal with it.

When you learn the language, you don’t invent new words but use those that already exist. By talking and reading, first you learn the words and phrases that already exist, keep those that you individually like and best suit your “internal” world, and use them later to combine them or create new ones that can help you present your internal world to the outside.

What you then present to the outside can - for whatever reason - be very appealing to the others, so they start to “emulate” it. It may be that they will offer something new later, which will appeal to you again.

For me, this is a process that takes place without conscious reflection. "Personal style "develops by itself, through imitation (active exploration) of the things others have already produced.


What you call arrogance I call a base human desire to understand even in the face of nihilism. When faced with the possibility that there is no meaning or truth out there we still try to know.

You cannot know if there is a deeper truth or meaning out there, and I’d rather try to find it.

You inherently have a different worldview for art.
You have decided to focus on the negative aspects of art pretentiousness but what of those who find a deeper meaning or enjoyment of something and want to share it with someone else?

My child sometimes brings me drawings she’s has done to show me. Not out of pretentiousness or arrogance but because she likes it and wants to share it with me. She believes I might like it too. She may tell me why she likes it (whatever the case may be).

This is the same seed for many artists and people who love and get excited by art. They enjoy sharing something they made, or like, with others. They enjoy talking about why they like it with others.

Or it’s all just randomly arrogant livestock. :wink:
(Sorry, but due to your response now I can’t get an image of fancy livestock in tuxedos, top hats, and monocles being all fancy and stuffy out of my head. :D)

@anon41087856 let’s move philosophical debates to another thread and stop interrupting in here. :wink: (apologies to @davidvj)


I also think creation is always a very intimate and personal thing. I don’t want it to not be! :slightly_smiling_face:

I had said somewhere else once that it was a bit of a revelation to me to realize that all art is a view presented through the filter of the artist. Which is awesome in my opinion.

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Oh, what rich discourse is this thread… I do want to thank those participating for whom English is not their first language, because in this thread we’re really digging into concepts that are hard to express even in a common dialect.

First things first: @patdavid, I know you’re trying to keep things civil, especially after the recent events, but the assertions made to date are fundamentally about every poster’s perception of the act of and response to creative endeavors. Yep, there are some emotional sentiments and trigger words interspersed, but what I’m choosing to do is apply the mental autocorrect of ‘idiot’ to ‘different’ for the discussion.

Not even sure where to start. @davidvj, if you’d have left out the ‘C’ word in the thread title, it’d have been a very different discussion. But “Creativity” goes to the heart of it, any alternative selection of artistic tools is rooted in the intended synthesis.

Photography has a particular constraint in the requirement to yank all creative expression through the knothole of the lens. To me, the photographic medium is simply a collection of the ways this is done to produce a rendering. That’s how I think of film and digital, just two different mechanisms. In either, the rendering is “the thing”, the communicative connection between the artist and an audience.

That brings me to where I think the thread discussion has gravitated, the creative act. To me, art is an act of communication, with sender, channel, receiver, feedback, and all that. I’d like to hear from folk who think otherwise, not so we can argue about it but so I can consider counterpoint.

When I look at my creative domain in that regard, my main audience is my family, who have expectations very much not rooted in words like ‘gamut’ and ‘tristimulus’. So, my main concern with respect to audience is to make images compelling enough for my daughter to include in her annual calendar. Her need is mainly to have her children and maybe some of the rest of us in the frame, and that their depictions are recognizable. A low bar, no doubt. I do know she appreciates some attention to composition, so that’s where I revel. Otherwise, it’s documentation.

So, how does that tie to the greater creative endeavors? Well, I’d argue it’s just a fundamental example of the communicative act that is creation. “Bigger” messages, “bigger” audiences. So, my provocative assertion is that, We’re All Doing This To Communicate With Others. Until very recently I thought otherwise, that I was taking pictures simply for my own satisfaction, but that’s not really the case. Turns out I do want to know what others think of my creations - ow, that’s a visceral revelation…

In the larger world of Art, I’d regard the fanciful feedback that irritates @anon41087856 as just another aspect of the audience regarding that work. An artist puts something out there, and a bunch of people react to it. I choose to study the entire act of communication and how it fits in the grand scheme of things. I’m a Methodist by way of faith, but my view here is decidedly Zen philosophy…

I :heart: -ed @s7habo’s post, but I also want to call it out as particularly insightful in terms of what I’ve uttered here…

I was tiring of programming anyway, good thread for an alternate thing to consider, waiting for spring… :sunny:


I thought about how to best encapsulate my thoughts on the subject. It shall take some time to develop :slight_smile: but here is the first part.

Story one
In grade school, I used to be a perfectionist or had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve :stuck_out_tongue:. However, I was too slow and couldn’t complete my assignments. Although half complete, they were far more developed than my peers and still received a good grade as a result.

In art class, I was drawing a puffin using pastels, starting with its eye. First time working with pastel and with little to no instruction, as this was a general compulsory class. The teacher took notice and stood by my desk to comment on the realism and beauty, but she said that she didn’t want a photograph but rather something more abstract. After all, would it be art if I were to make an exact copy of the real thing? All I was thinking was What?! First, it wasn’t carbon copy of a photo; I didn’t have a reference photo. Second, I wasn’t aiming for realism but for it to look captivating with deep colours and sharp transitions. Anyway, I ended up following her instructions, slowly radiating outwards from what I already had to something increasingly abstract.

I didn’t see this piece for 3 more years. I think the teacher took it to show her future students without my permission. I actually found it atop a dusty and dirty cabinet when I returned to visit the school, looking for a model Concorde that I made, which another teacher took to use for his drama class. Both were in terrible condition. The Concorde was broken in three pieces. The puffin was smudged, faded and torn.

Thinking back, this reaction of mine came from the fact that the categories of realism and abstraction weren’t of concern to the creativity of my art. I was making something, being creative, because I chose to do so at that moment, with certain media, a particular subject, style, approach, etc.

Naturally, there are constraints, physical and otherwise. I couldn’t compose this however I wanted because I was a student doing an assignment. I wasn’t doing it while flying in the air like Superman because Superman isn’t real (at least to our knowledge :stuck_out_tongue:) and I am definitely not him. To think otherwise would be a delusion.

In my mind, creativity is taking what you have and making it something, and that takes both constraints and decisions. Taking this back to photography, the technical, the art, the design and the decisions made by the photographer, colourist, etc. all contribute to the creativity, from conception to final product or evolving piece.

It is easy to reduce tech and media to creative-agnostic elements. This is simply untrue but that is a endless discussion for another time. Let me just say that our tools including mathematics have latent creativity and that they aren’t neutral by any means. It is just not in the way you would think of it as. @ggbutcher is on the right track with his comments on communication.

[To be cont. OR NOT: I don’t like the direction the discussion is going.]


Aesthetics is meaning. Its the whole point of it.

A = B
B != C
=> A != C, so far I can follow

but why is A != D or A != !D ???

Well, to be rigourous, it should be:

presets \in \{aesthetics\}
\{aesthetics\} \perp \{meaning\}
hence presets \perp \{meaning\}
thus presets \perp \{creativity\}
meaning that \exists \{presets\} \cap \{creativity\} and \exists \{presets\} \cap \{\overline{creativity}\}

But I think most people won’t follow the difference between \perp and ≠

Nope. That’s what every landscape photographer thinks, and see where it leads… Boring sharp and well-exposed pictures full of saturated colors.

Before I go into my take, I just want to admit straight up that I did not read every single reply to this thread in entirety and I’m not here to argue the semantics of what one word doesn’t mean or even care to comment on the math equations that this devolved to. I’m coming at this as an artist who supports other artists.

I just want people to remember that its ok to like what you like. And not like what you don’t like. There’s plenty of things that crosses my feeds that is praised by one organization or this endorsement or whatever, but it’s not really my thing. I can appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I wouldn’t hang it up in my home, yknow?

There is no wrong way to be creative. If you like using the same aesthetic in every shoot, go for it. That doesn’t make you any less creative if you’re applying it to your vision. One of my favorite blogs only shares orange tinted photos. I really like the color orange so I enjoy seeing all the ways its applied across various scenes or designs. One of my close friends hates the color orange and would not enjoy that feed in the slightest. Neither opinion is right or wrong.

We can sit here and argue about the definition of creativity or aesthetic until the cows come home, but there is always going to be that one person who takes everything said and does the exact opposite, and still has people who will support them and their vision.

If you like what you’re doing and enjoy the results, that’s all that matters. Tools don’t matter, process doesn’t matter. Its how you feel about what you’re doing, and no one can really debate that in any tangible way.

That’s the magic of art.

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I really hate this kind of hyperbolic relativism. “Everybody can be right at the same time, so let’s agree to disagree and stop arguing”.

You mistake opinions and arguments. Every philosopher of some importance is always criticized be the next one, and partially invalidated. Did we stop doing philosophy ? Nope. Every scientific model is going to be replaced at some point by a better one, and partially invalidated. Did we stop doing science ? Nope.

People spend their time disagreeing and arguing, and nobody cares about the intermediate conclusion, because the process is more important and what really matters is the final conclusion, yet and forever to be written.

But you Americans have an ontological problem with arguing, as if it was some declaration of war, and a deep fear of looking judgmental, as if it was enough to send you to hell. It’s merely sport for the brain.

Sure, let’s trash psychology and social sciences with that.

Yes they do. They are parts of a multivariate problem. Creativity with no matter or no medium is only ideas. Get some paper and a pen, it becomes text or drawings. You want to be creative by writing with white ink on white paper ? Be creative all you want, but people won’t be able to read you. So, at least, light grey on white… Oh well, you just added a technical contraint ! And so on… Tools matter, process matter, they are part of the whole deal.