Man vs. Machine


Abstract I, photograph

“Anyone who can be replaced by a machine deserves to be.”

– Dennis Gunton

A visitor to my studio last weekend made the observation that photography had become much easier and faster with the advent of the computer and digital imaging.

Needless to say, I didn’t let that one pass…

Technology is usually an enabler, rarely an expeditor. I can do so many things now with the camera that I could not before but I wouldn’t say I do any of it any more quickly. There is now endless experimentation with each image. That all takes time and generally I only consider something done when I grow tired of working on it. In the old days, pieces were finished because I ran out of things I could do to them rather than running out of interest.

I suspect that many oil paintings take longer to produce than watercolors merely because it is much easier to alter or correct an oil painting – if you make a serious mistake in a watercolor painting, you toss it and start over. I suppose in some sense you could argue that oil painting is easier than watercolor for that reason (I’ve heard this before) but I think it’s equally hard to paint either. Both require the same combination of artistic creativity, technique and intention.

As I’ve said before, it ain’t the tools, it’s the one who wields them.

I could not have made the photograph above 20 years ago. I won’t go into detail about how this was done, but there is a lot of technique involved which relies on equipment and tools which didn’t exist then. All of which enabled me to create an image which could not have existed otherwise.

How cool is that?

3 responses to “Man vs. Machine

  1. Bob,

    I agree, a very common misconception that many people have is that the computer makes a job faster. The same is true for me as a graphic designer. It seems that every year clients want work faster (and often cheaper). Often my creative skills that I bring to the table can get overlooked… clients have the perception that the computer does all the work.

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