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I Can Take Crappy Photos if I Want to!

by Drury Brennan

Since the “information superhighway’” tech-revolution in the late ‘90s, the ways in which media-culture is created and disseminated have profoundly influenced contemporary methods of expression. The Internet has already shaped the world in unfathomable ways. For instance, a friend’s ska band was discovered on Myspace and flown out to Saudi Arabia (for a week, all expenses paid) to play a 13-year-old’s birthday party.

Photography, though accessible to most consumers for well over 70 years, is certainly a medium that has changed considerably with this media (r)evolution. Before the digital camera, both amateur and professional photographers had to shoot photos with a chemically treated film. The exposed film is then developed in another round of chemicals, and finally printed on light-sensitive papers in a darkroom. Though these “analog” processes produce striking results, there are several drawbacks to the rigorous (and often hazardous) method. First off, if the exposure settings on your camera are incorrect for the lighting situation, you might not have any images at all to develop. Plus, you won’t know for sure until you’ve gone through the trouble of inhaling noxious fumes and making your fingers oily with a brash chemical tingle numerous times. Also, you can fuck up the temperature, amount, concentration, and aura of these chemicals with the most graceful ease, leaving you with a pile of ratty film and a stupid expression.

The digital camera, on the other hand, takes care of any need you can think of for modern image making—it’s chem-free, virtually cost-free, and can be reality-free. Instead of film, a digital camera has a little chip at the back of it that records light and translates that information into data stored on a small memory card about the size of a loogie. In theory, one can take pictures over and over again and never waste anything besides time. You can even instantly send those photos to anyone that can receive e-mail.

If you want to alter something in your pictures, say, fix all the colors to make them look impossibly perfect (correct), or make a photo look like you were vacationing on Ibiza’s beaches when you were in fact drunk on Osco brandy in your bed for four days, it’s as easy as Adobe Photoshop! Photoshop requires no chemicals, no tactile skill sets, and about 10 minutes of basic operating knowledge pulled off the Internet. You can make a baby look like a duck, your grandma look like a baby and much much more. Best of all, there’s no cost! If you can afford a computer (let alone tuition at this art school), go on the Internet and grab a pirated copy from many of the illicit outlets which store the software just for you.

In all seriousness, the digital camera gave me the freedom I needed to do what all photographers have to when they begin: take tons of terrible pictures. Without the scary concept of wasting precious film hanging over my head, I played at image-making with total abandon. Photography is less of a dice roll with digital, and you can instantly observe the mechanics of your images, allowing for instant improvement. Think of digital cameras as cheap paper for practicing your alphabets, and film as the nice piece of paper your teacher gives you to write on for the final grade. Kids may not be getting their darkroom time right away, but by the time they’re taking good pictures, they’ll be ready.

Visit to see Drury’s photographs.


September 2006