The Digital Photograph as a Craft Object

Authors: Zia, R.

Start date: 19 June 2019

The digital photograph is a vastly different medium from its film counterpart and as such needs to be understood and recognised in its own right. This paper explores the digital photograph as a craft object by grounding it in the author’s landscape photography practice. Contemporary digital multi-shot photography techniques such as high dynamic range photography, gigapixel photography, focus stacking and digital panorama stitching make use of multiple different photographic exposures of the scene that are subsequently combined together to create a resulting image that contains more scene detail than can be captured in a single photographic exposure. Non-destructive image editing techniques and workflow allow the original camera exposures that form the raw material for the final image to remain unaltered. The digital photograph, unlike physical craft objects, can be reconstituted, moulded and crafted to generate a multitude of different outputs depending the application or creative intent of the photographer from the same raw material. The digital photograph can thus be conceived as a virtual craft object comprising of: a) the raw material in the form of the acquired exposure values of the scene, b) the image manipulation or digital craft operations applied, and, c) the resulting image outputs. The notion of the digital photograph as a virtual craft object highlights and celebrates the greater plasticity that the digital photograph brings whilst also identifying a number of challenges and implications for both practitioners and theorists.

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