"Digitalizing" vision of our eyes and mind

Japanese Camera industry has been shaken quite harshly in the transition of analog film to digital format. Kyocela, the company which used to own the premium Contax brand has withdrawn from both digital and film camera market, and Nikon announced to abandon the production of film camera, and Konica Minolta gave up whole camera production and handed over to Sony--meaning that a film company Konica is also going to disappear completely. By the transition from film to digital, even the most well-known, solid camera companies are having difficult time.

I read an article in a Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shinbun, written by a professional photographer, Shinya Fujiwara. He suggests to reconsider the meaning of photography through this transition, as he found that some photographers still insists on film format without a solid reason.

"Frankly speaking, the "human eye" itself has been influenced and adopted to "digital" in recent 30 years, and in one way the hardware has been following from behind for adopting to such change"

This also points out that beyond the camera industry and photography field, our way of communication, the way we see things, and the role of photography as an expression media in a society has been changed.

Mr. Fujiwara explains through the meaning of "digitalized" eyes.

"For example, the negative point of digital photography by its narrow dynamic range (gradation detail level from pure white to pure black) can also be said to today's films, that the dynamic range has not been expanded but narrowed in 30 years. Meaning that the base performance of today's films has been decreased"

"The richness and the density of gradation detail with wide dynamic range "appears" to be low-key and humble--on the contrary, narrow dynamic range heightens the image contrast to make it look glittering and bold. What this means in terms of the film usage is that films have shifted their direction toward "how the captured image "looks like" rather than seeking for "how much information a film can capture even if it is invisible"

Ever since the invention of photography and cameras, we have found the meaning to take a photograph and leave it as a print=a visual object. However, the popularity of cameras and their commonness in our daily lives dramatically changed the reason and the meaning of taking a photo and the photography itself. The shift of film performance just seems to have been following this need of people. Now people want a photo to be bright and bold in colors (rather than in shadow and light) at a glance.

"Not just in the dynamic range, but also in the "saturation" of colors, higher, brighter colors are wanted. If the color saturation of old films is closer to real nature, today's films have increased their color saturation almost to the limit, and the colors have become very "artificial". In these years, our eyes have adjusted to those bold images appearing everywhere in our everyday lives. We now want to see those glittering and bright images in our photos.

What does that "artificial" colors mean?
We normally take a photo when we "want" to take a photo. That's where our feeling comes in to capture that moment and subject and leave it in a photo, and at that point, a photo becomes an object reflecting feeling and memory. As I discussed in "Gerhard Richter" entry, a visual perception and its "information" is something to be recognized and interpreted, to be memorized and realized again in a form of an art. The gap between that mere perception information and the translated products has to be redefined and reconsidered, in this time of hardware transition from analog to digital.

"Even when I photograph a tree leaves, the captured green color becomes like an artificial leaf's, far different from the real visual color. (either in today's film or digital image) This tells that the we camera users, including professionals, now tend to believe the glittering bright artificial colors as reminiscent colors, which becomes the "real" colors in the process of storing that information in our mind as a memory. We now think that reminiscent colors more beautiful, having more sensitivity toward digital produces"

It is our individual process of recognizing and memorizing with all the subjectivity and consciousness of our mind, including such notion of "beauty" as we "capture" a subject through our visual perception and heighten it to the level of "sensitivity." The point (especially for professionals) is whether that "individual" process is our own or not, as a photography is so common and popular today. Is a photograph really something to capture as a memory? Does the photograph reflects the individual process, or it is that hardware process of point and shoot? And above all, the most fundamental question of what for we take a photograph leave it behind--which is now a difficult question to ask in these days when a photo is so common stuff--is left behind.
Photography depends on a hardware, and once we grab the hardware, we can produce a photograph--for keeping a photography as a media of expression, there is a danger once we forget those essential questions.

In the history of Japan, the sensitivity and notion of beauty has been developed through the natural colors and textures of surrounding world. But today, we are drastically shifting our sensitivity toward the artificial but stimulating urban context. TV monitor has a bright and bold colors saturation and high contrast, and TV games and computer monitor has even higher color and contrast performance. The increasing sensation also affects our way of perceiving the surrounding, too.

"Scary point is that our human eyes shift and adjust the sensitivity in less than 10 seconds. For example, when we see two different photography (such as a scenery photo) with different color saturation and contrast---first we look at a photo with wide dynamic range with authentic color saturation similar to the colors in nature, second we look at the same photo with a higher saturation and contrast, and then going back to the first photo---we consider the first photo with natural colors and rich gradation as lifeless and bland after the strong stimulation"

As a professional photographer, Mr. Fujiwara is discussing through photography and a visual perception, but it is applicable for other field, too.

"If such sensation of colors becomes "normal" for 10 years, the false feeling would change the essential organic perception system of our brain and its function. The transition from analog to digital is happening along with the change of our "digitalizing" sensation"

This is not just a negative point of view, but for someone who produces an object and product, it is important to consider what it means to a creative process.

"There is a shocking study that a cat growing up in a cage with vertical stripes can not see horizontal stripes. We human being of today might be getting closer to that cat"

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