Photography will be 200 years old in 2026, 24 years from now. In historical terms that’s an infinitesimal length of time.
In archival quality of photographic images it’s a very long time.
In 1826 Joseph Nicephore Niepce, using a very rudimentary camera and a pewter plate coated with light sensitive material, created the world’s first photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras. He probably had no idea of how long his picture would last. More than likely, he envisioned earning large sums of money creating affordable portraits for the middle classes that would endure to the next generation. He could not have imagined the benefits his invention would provide to the world. The photograph that Niepce made still exists. It will be displayed, and mounted in an airtight case to preserve it for the future in the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, in April 2003.
It may seem unlikely to us now, but the first color photographs were criticized as being unnatural. They were very complicated and expensive to produce, and thought to be an extravagance. However, a third dimension had been added. Nature, people, and events are composed of a kaleidoscope of colors that can only be communicated to others by a human’s eye and brain. That unique capability provides significant additional information about any given subject or activity, and sometimes evokes strong emotions and feelings. We have even gone so far as to attribute different colors to different emotions. Red for anger, white for purity, and etc. I think that is a very important distinction between man and the other living things in our world, and the basic reason for including color as an element in so many things in our lives.
Now we are confronted with “Digital” photography. Some photographers will shun it, while others will accept the challenge it represents. I suggest that acceptance and exploitation of the technology will occur across a wide spectrum of applications as a function of economics, need and desire. Acquisition and use of the new technology is within reach. Hybrid systems can easily be set up to scan film into digital files that we can develop and print in our own digital darkroom. Beyond that a compact flash card replaces film in a digital camera and downloads directly into the files without going through a scanner – the camera is the scanner. All that went on before “digital” came along is simply corroboration of the need for what is happening now. Our desire to reproduce the colors and composition we can see in a scene before us drives us to use the new equipment that displays that information in real time, allows us to capture the scene, and then develop and print beautiful copies of it — in our own digital darkroom.
If not now, when?