between photography and painting, i chose the former. as i child, i dappled in all sorts of colours – water, oil, crayons, pencils and even vegetables and flower petals. 20 years on, it’s interesting to watch my younger cousins play around with colours in more ways than one – a 3 year old stripping off all his clothes and pouring paint all over himself and jumping around a toilet floor covered with newspapers. that’s art for you…however, when mum allowed me to use the family heirloom…a camera dad had gifted her many many years ago, it sort of changed my perceptions of the idea of an image

painting is about an image created…

photography is about an image captured…and it’s the captured, not the created that began to fascinate.

it’s something about a slice of the world through a perspective…a photographer’s perspective that comes coloured with his history, his culture, language, politics and so on…ofcourse, this doesn’t take away from the painter, who also attempts his works from the same philosophical abstractions. however, it is this idea of the image captured that is so fascinating. and somehow, that fascination seems to stem from our ability to trust in the photographic image…primarily because it comes invested in the idea of the real. it’s the closest any form of art has gone to replicate the real…to replicate the world around us.

however…how does one trust an image that is in itself a copy of an original of a copy of an original…?


how about this…a painting is created by the painter…by the artist. so the original painting remains singular in size and colour and depth and scope and love and faith. it is this singularity that gives this image its originality. it just can’t be replicated in its true essence and everything else that we see of it, is obviously a copy. the van gogh on the fridge magnet is a copy. the vitruvian man on your tee-shirt is a copy.

however, when we move to a photograph, it becomes manifold. a photographic image, due to the very nature of its chemical existence, can be created and re-created in many shapes and sizes across the spectrum from a single negative. so then which image is the original? or are all images copies? or is the negative the original and the photograph its copy? i just think that the negative is the original which largely is the play of light on chemicals…and that everything produced hence from it is a copy. basically, i guess every photograph is a copy of the original negative. at the end of the day, i think it’s something that we subconsciously know as well…how many times have we walked into the local photo shop and asked can you please make me 4 copies from this negative? so the positives are copies. the negatives are originals…or are they?

now imagine if one were to take this debate to the digital world? a world that we have slowly yet truly come to trust so much…a world that has absolutely consumed our beings over the past decade…it’s funny that we tend to be in love with very complicated notions of technology, and yet how this love is primarily a binary love…a love for a series of 1’s and 0’s collectively giving meaning to anything and everything digital. anyways, so when we shift from the painting to the film camera to the digital…what happens? what happens to the digital image? is the original image basically a series of 1’s and 0’s? or is the original image what we see in the lcd screen? or is it what we get after we manipulate it on photoshop? or is the digital platform itself basically a copy? a copy that tries closest to represent the 36/ 24 of film? where does one head with the debate?

anyways, there wasn’t an intended logic in this post.

this ramble just happened after re-reading a portion of berger’s ways of seeing…there seems to be a lack of appropriation in debate and argument about these ideas, but wim wender’s thoughts seem to best suit the mood…

images above all, change faster and faster and they’ve been multiplying at a hellish rate ever since the explosion that unleased the elctronic images. the very images which are now replacing photography. we’ve learnt to trust the photographic image. can we trust the electronic image? with the electronic image and the digital, there is no more negative and no more positive. the very notion of the original is obsolete. everything is copy. all distinctions have become arbitrary…


~ by mentalsyrup on February 12, 2009.

One Response to “paintings…photographs…images…debates…”

  1. “Everything you can imagine is real.”—Pablo Picasso.
    It started with cave paintings—-and what it will become in the future, who knows. its an inherent tendency of man to “re-create” his surroundings and tell stories. and since its darwins b’day, ill say the many forms—painting, photos, digital images—-is Evolution!! 🙂

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