00110011 01100011 11001011

[Winter 1995-1996]

by Robert Legendre

Since it was invented, photography has evolved constantly. The portfolio presenting some of Ginette Bouchard’s work published in this issue of CVphoto, as well as Carol Dallaire’s in issue 32, provides me with a pretext to reflect on the orientation toward a new technology.

There has been a quiet movement toward creating images on computers, and artists who are interested in this process, such as university art professors (including Suzanne Duquette and Andrée Beaulieu Green in Montreal in the early 1970s), were long considered marginal, or even fanatics. For photography, the boom began with the 1980s. Since then, the appearance of image-modification software, increasing quality in digitization of visual documents, and the ability to obtain high-quality proofs have made remarkable tools widely available. Graphic designers, who have become computer artists, have made good use of these opportunities. The emerging results of this technology have shaken up photographic circles, who have until recently sworn only by definition, permanence, and reproduction. It has become an issue that can no longer be ignored. As well, the use of computers and cathode-ray screens as a support for creativity and means of diffusing digitized works is imposing completely new parameters on both classic photography and other artistic domains. Digital cameras will be here in a few years, offering a level of sophistication that will revolutionize the photographic act itself, along with the ceremony that surrounds it.

Since the advent of computers, the photographic object (that which becomes the work), like the sequence of motions required to produce it, has become as distanced from the photographic act, strictly speaking, as is painting. The act is not pure. It is computerized, and therefore a borrowing. This confers upon it an aura of facility and effectiveness, whence its uniqueness – its weakness and its strength. This amalgam of means and possibilities draws profusely on painting, collage, drawing, and video. Photography is obvious for its affinity, its availability, the volume of works available, and the overfamiliarity of its officiants. The power of the media testifies to the fact that one can, through digital technology, fragment indefinitely and particularly easily the source object, mutilate it, make it anonymous and appropriate it into a work that itself becomes a source object, which becomes … We believe that we have liberated ourselves from the constraints of traditional media, from a certain skill of execution, and from the need for content. In fact, they have shifted, but they have not disappeared.

This terribly modern (and disturbing, for some) technology opens up to creative artists a domain that they must define, name, establish standards for, and set the parameters for the available means of diffusion or invent new ones themselves. And they are not the only ones conquering this old virgin territory. But that’s another story…