Digital technology offers its users a chance to create images like never before. It is a new world where the biggest contributing factor to an image is not the conventional creativity of a photographer but the creativity of a computer.
When Roland Barthes, in his book Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, said that ‘every picture is a certificate of presence’ he was living in a time where digital technologies were not as prevalent as they are today. A certificate of presence in an image implies a reflection of reality and absolute truth. This implies that all the contents, subjects and characteristics in an image existed in the real physical world at the time that the picture was taken. Then does that in turn, if interpreted literally, mean that any addition or alteration even in the slightest negate the “reality” of that image?
The question today is that with the use of digital technologies, have the lines between reality and fiction become blurred? Reality is now not an objective fact but a subjective version of a previously considered actuality and to this there are no limitations save that of our imagination. This blurring of lines can be seen in all fields of photography and visual arts, but it is visible in an almost shameful abundance in particular in the media industry.
Today, photographs taken for purposes of all sorts are now becoming truly digital images as many of them are created almost entirely through the use of the latest computer software. It is a globally spread concept of using digital technologies to alter and even re-create images that are so different from the original that they become un-recognisable if placed beside the original photographs.
Photographic Reality is no longer real; or rather it cannot be defined as real with certainty. Roland Barthes’ thoughts and sentiments can exist in today’s world only in subjectivity.
We now live in a world where the ‘presence’ in an image is no longer the most important aspect or the most appealing feature of an image. While there may be critics who frown upon the use of digital technologies for the creation of an image which is then called photography, perhaps we ought to consider certain other criteria for our judgement.
Till now, one of the biggest criterions for judging a photograph was how the photographer was able to capture that moment and portray it in whatever fashion that he chose to. but perhaps, now; given this almost electrifying spread of technology; we could track back a little on our judgement of a moment that existed in time and look more to the conceptualisation and thought behind an image.
Returning to Roland Barthes, whether or not his statement saying that ‘every photograph is a certificate of presence’ can be taken as a final verdict in the matter of photographic realism (or rather the lack of realism) in modern day photographs is a question that does not seem to have an answer.
Images; whether created with the use of computers or straight from the click of the shutter; are a depiction a single moment in time of our world. even the doctored or digitally created images, though not representative of a literal or “real” moment in time are reflection of something real that is the creator’s thoughts and ideas behind creating that image.
To create our own world; even if only on print is power, power like those of the Greek Gods..with that notion in mind, what is to say that a photograph taken and then altered maybe even re-created altogether using a bunch of software is not as real as anything else?