Are eggs still eggs even if scrambled? I would say yes.
Just like my scrambled photographs – which could also be described as dug out, disjointed or dissolved to the point of revealing a second, hidden nature – still remain photographs.
In times gone by, there was much and heated discussion about whether photography could become art.
Those denying it was an art offered as evidence the objective nature of photography, which in their eyes makes the role of the photographer negligible, in some way automatic and not, therefore, noble.
This polemic falls apart with the spread of forms of art, universally recognised as such, in which the creative process is even simpler and more direct than in photography, and, on the other hand, with a vast production of photography of extraordinary quality in which the result is the outcome of a broad spectrum of interventions before, during and after the shot, and this was true even before the digital era.
It is now obvious to everyone that no photographic image is “objective”, but only one of the possible transcriptions of reality, exactly like a painting, a statue, an x-ray or an electroencephalogram.
Being “subjective”, a photograph can therefore become a work of art, where someone (but who, how and why is another kettle of fish), acknowledges its characteristics.
What happens when the computer arrives? As in traditional photography, the result is determined by the choice of sensitive materials, developing and printing strategies in the dark room, in the same way that in digital photography a single potential image can generate a myriad of different photographic images thanks to the computer’s immense possibilities of analysis and transcription.
Digital processes are naturally different to those of traditional photography, and so the results are different and take us into a new world.
Something similar happened with the introduction of oil painting, compared to tempera or frescoes: different methods and materials, results and expressive possibilities equally far from each other, but who would talk about the superiority of oil painting over tempera or vice versa?
The system of the “traditional camera – film – development and printing in the dark room” has offered and still offers enormous possibilities of expression both in black and white and in colour to a vast range of artists; in the same way, the “digital – sensor – graphics software – digital printing” system makes it possible to transcribe the reality that surrounds us in a different and extraordinarily varied way, as in fact is done by that highly sophisticated system with which we are equipped, the “eye – optic nerve – brain cortex” system.
Digital photography is therefore yet another looking glass that human beings have available to make visual contact with reality, whose aspect depends simply on the instruments that we have available to capture it (to limit the question to what we see, but the same considerations could be made for each of our senses).
One short aside.
Talking of “photo retouching” about computer processing of photographic images, with an obviously reductive meaning, attributing implicitly great or even exclusive artistic quality to traditional photography, is not only wrong, but also rather ridiculous: it would be like saying the Sistine Chapel is more “artistic” than a painting by Caravaggio only because the fresco technique does not allow rethinking (retouching) while an oil painting does. It would be like denying the “artistic” nature of Canaletto’s vedute because of the addition of human figures on top of the painting of the view itself (other retouches); or saying that a digitally processed guitar is not a real musical instrument: go tell that to The Edge, aka David Evans, one of the greatest living guitarists, who makes extensive, I would say almost maniacal, use of digital effects in sound (retouches).
If you do not like scrambled eggs, you are welcome to enjoy raw, boiled, poached or any other form of eggs, but please do not claim that scrambled eggs are not eggs.