Since photography began popularly at the end of the 19th century an argument has gone on whether making a photograph is an art or is it a science. It is a continuing question that has never been resolved for much of the 20th century, and still remains a question. Of course some photographer’s work is now accepted by the establishment and publicly as art. But the fact that the photographic process is scientifically based, even more so in the digital age, leaves much doubt and misunderstanding in the minds of many who adopt using a camera.
Much of that doubt and confusion is the result of a photographic business community that keeps the process as secretive and so little understood deliberately. Mystery is to their benefit in the marketplace - would you buy a sausage if you really knew what’s in it? So the public is at the mercy of what companies are willing to share, and it does not amount to much understanding of the hardware and software they are using However, one thing you can be sure of is that the science behind photography demands that the photographer must think scientifically rather than artfully to make photographs.
Fortunately people are not so easily led to abide to the dictates of the establishment, and think and do more as their spirit demands. So a side business has developed that supports every creative image manipulation method imaginable to satisfy the quirks of individuality and self-expression. Sadly that has not added much to photographers understanding of how the medium, a camera, a computer and software function. Mystery still prevails and the “magic” remains in the hands of the establishment’s secretive possession. This is further complicated and made ever more obscure as today’s computers and software are inept at providing much control over the photographic process.
The personal computer business began in ernest in the mid-80’s with a lot more garage factories putting together components than is commonly known. But these were mostly difficult to use requiring the user learn command-line control. So the next development making computers user friendly was what is called a GUI (Graphic User Interface), that led to some off-shoots like computer games and digital image editing and processing. But the typical personal computer was always a mix of often not very compatible pieces designed and constructed to provide independent color reproduction. That situation still dominates and a personal computer has no idea of what image is presented on-screen and cannot identify what the subject of the picture is, even that it might be a photo of something natural.
In the mid 1990’s Color Management was introduced and soon was supported by the two most popular computer operating systems. This allowed for a translation of color values so any RGB number set would reproduce the same objective colors in a color reproduction device like a display or printer. Color management however is a limited value as it does not assure that the RGB color captured in a digital image is true to the subject color photographed. And, Color Management is still far from being universally used by photographers.
This leaves digital photographic imaging being subject the photographers’ perception to be able to adjust, edit and process digital camera or film scanned images to match or not the image that was the subject. So photo images, however they are reproduced are done so by personal, individual visual perception and evaluation. Whatever the image is in relationship to the subject is the photographer’s choice. As a choice made by diverse minds it must be called accurately art of some kind; good or bad.