“One of my pet peeves is how people now equate digital art with JPEGs and spinning little GIFs when it’s a medium that has a 60-year-long history that consists of everything from algorithmic drawings to internet art.” says Christiane Paul, the Whitney Museum’s digital art curator. (New York Times – Oct 31, 2022)
I take some pleasure – as an analogue photographer who does not use digital tools beyond scanning prints for my website – in seeing Christiane Paul’s comment above. After all, analogue photographers have for the past, I don’t know how long, been looking for respect as a branch on the Evolution of Art tree.
I think photography is now firmly established as its own limb on the Evolution of Art tree. This is now finally an undisputed fact. Some photographers have for a while now been encourage the digital side to find its own way. Those to whom the removal of content from the frame and the addition of enhancements, or even foreign objects, are the norm. Those to whom the photograph itself is merely an ingredient in a final work. Those are digital artists.
It seems that now the new NFT digital artists are snubbing the .JPGs that for so long have been the tool of choice for most digital artists. The format where the huge raw file post enhancement has come to rest. It is not without a certain mild satisfaction that I read that the NFT market has tanked and those that endure are finding their way to public institutions for rescue. There is no doubt that NFTs are here to stay, but there needs to be a distillation of quality, a new transparency, and a better understanding of what an NFT is and what it is intended to do.
Perhaps the NFT, when properly understood, can turn the digital photographer towards the new digital reality and lead the split in the photography branch on the Evolution of Art tree. One branch continues to show photography that is maybe 95% what the maker saw through the camera (I am not greedy, I can live with a bit of correction, but not addition, or removal of entire elements), and a second, new branch, which is digital art. It is the branch that holds works on paper that is based on minimal manipulation and is an honest, or near honest representation of what was in front of the photographer when the shutter was pressed. And a second branch which should remain on a screen in the digital world from whence it came.
While the NFT market may be down by 97% year-over-year in value and speculators and manipulators are feeling it in the pocketbook, it is a time for rebirth and sincerity and more than anything transparency. The NFT is here to stay. Nobody alive today can remember 1929, when stock tips from the person operating the elevator suggested it was time to get out of the market. In the NFT world, the market has spoken, people got out. It is time for recovery. Maybe this time a transparent and clear delineation might help with the split between photographic art and digital art.