On Digital Photography
  • dogimo
    September 1, 2009

    YES!!! Thank you!

  • jonthebru
    September 1, 2009

    Awesome picture, as usual I am impressed!

  • Benford Cruz
    September 1, 2009

    Excellent until the last panel which I find to be a bit of a glib statement. Girl should probably explain why she feels individual images have no meaning, given that single images, digital or otherwise, still undoubtedly have the power to captivate.
    For example — http://www.theppy.com

  • a random person
    September 1, 2009

    Hmmm, the decontextualised digital image may have no meaning, but Girl’s example of a single image of raising the flag on Iwo Jima only really has meaning in the context of a range of tacit knowledge about WWII and the conflict in the Pacific etc, its just that that knowledge wasn’t also contained in (additional) photographs.

  • Charles
    September 1, 2009

    Does this all mean that an individual has no meaning or purpose and that it is in the glib and transient conversations between individuals that any actual meaning or truth is found, that truth is something that exists outside of those that experience it?

    I suppose it is similar to the cells of the human body, none of them making a person in itself but the whole and collective actions between them creating a human being. Take a cell from the body ( a single moment or photograph ) and you have not captured the actual humanness of it.

    Then again, it could be that meaning and moments are just illusions, reflections of the real, and that a single photograph is more “real” and important than the imagined stories built around it.

  • AndyL
    September 1, 2009

    I assumed that she meant that no individual modern image has the SHARED CULTURAL meaning of those older photos.

    While we all instantly understood which image Girl was describing even though she never even mentioned Iwo Jima, I can’t think of any single modern image that could be identified by such an incredibly vague description.

    It happens on a smaller scale, too. Our grandparents have *A* wedding photo that they remember. You mention the wedding photo, and the entire family thinks of that SPECIFIC photograph. That specific image has sentimental value. After a while the groom’s silly expression, or the way the bride is gesturing becomes an important part of the memories of that event, even though it lasted for only an instant in real time.

    An album full of casual snapshots may give you a better understanding of the event, it doesn’t have the shared meaning. You can’t say “Remember how the groom was holding his hat in the wedding photo?” and then have a good laugh about it, because there are about four thousand photos.

    Farther back in time it’s even more extreme. In the real olden days people might have a single portrait their entire lives.

    It’s a radical shift in how society perceives images. I’m not sure I agree with Girl’s exasperation here, but I understand her point.

  • Michael
    September 1, 2009

    Geez, you’ve been on the past couple of weeks. This is the third C&G I’ve been looking to forward to friends.

    Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.

  • EM
    September 1, 2009

    speaking of images having meaning, does the last panel mean
    Cat and Girl are back in Hell–-I mean, Arizona?

  • Nalano
    September 1, 2009

    You forgot the punchline.

  • Nyx
    September 1, 2009

    And that’s just the way I like it. When the means of preserving the past has diffused into the hands of the masses, a small group of people can no longer rewrite history to conform to their ideals.

  • Chris Jones
    September 1, 2009

    Damn, Dorothy, you so bitter you even forgot to put a joke in that one!!

  • Oliver
    September 2, 2009

    I don’t concur. There will always be “that” image, standing out in a sea of mediocrity and meaninglessness (noise), and it will have its fixed connotation for those who know it. What is more of an issue, at least in my view, is the number of “those who know”, as the ongoing fragmentation of society erodes the cultural canon. The Information Age (is this term still valid?) provides more data in its wake than a single life could ever process. Talk to friends you didn’t grow up with about what they consider “books you must have read” or “movies you must have seen”. You will be in for a surprise. As the cultural canon dissipates, so does the comforting validity, or “truth”, that shared culture harbors. So the volume of digital pictures might contribute to the problem in question, yet they can by no means be singled out, and neither does the individual image lose its meaning. A clear signal will always stand out against the noise of the background, but how many signals can you process at the same time. And more importantly: Are you even trying?

  • Oliver
    September 2, 2009

    Damn, it’s 7:00 in the morning…

  • FDR
    September 2, 2009

    AndyL and Oliver – great explanation. And Dorothy, Cat and Girl is phenomenal.

  • AndyL
    September 2, 2009

    If the sea of mediocrity is large enough, even the things that rise up out of it will form their own sea.

  • John K
    September 2, 2009

    I hate that digital photos can be erased instantly. The accidental snapshot is forever lost to the world.

  • Jorpho
    September 2, 2009

    The sheer strain of trying to decide exactly how to spend 24 snapshots once led me to forgo bringing a camera on vacation with me altogether. Being forced to choose which single moment was worthy of “elevation” and then being forced to look back on whether or not you made the right decision is an ugly business.

    So many of those pictures came out terribly anyway. Lousy so-called “viewfinders”.

  • Nny
    September 2, 2009

    back then picws were spensive. shots HAD to be great. now we can afford to shoot whatever we want-i can anyway-but why does it have to be depressing?

  • maegan r
    September 3, 2009

    it is sincerely depressing. the aspect of choosing, or having the medium itself- choose you for expressing your artwork in this specific time. from the evolution from the darkroom, where I found the love for photography, to having to buy a digital slr for art college, I’ve felt pretentious for continuing with what I originally loved.
    now I am one of a graduating class of twenty students that has a full darkroom, has intentions of using it fully, traditionally. that uses the nearly 30 variations of film cameras I personally own and use. compared to my one slr, I abandon.

    I have never commented here before. as I have never felt so compelled to do so.

    so, yeah.

  • Nny
    September 3, 2009


  • Dorothy
    September 4, 2009

    I wrote a punchline but it was not very good.

  • scott
    September 14, 2009

    I got one! A photograph is like a seashell. One is worth a thousand words. A thousand is worth one word.

  • Anorexorcist
    October 26, 2010

    My friends wonder why I use an analog camera. I told them I like the smell of film, but your reason is prettier.

  • 1SpacyHammond
    February 15, 2011

    More nonrequired reading: “Journey” by Patricia Maclaughlin, contains ongoing meditation about the meaning of photography, plus it’s a really sweet story.

  • Quizzical
    September 26, 2011

    Cat: I love you. The moment did get away, don’t worry.

  • Golux
    October 6, 2013

    Fire fighters, Flag, collapsed World Trade Center.
    Nope, there are still iconic photos.

  • Kliph
    August 11, 2015

    The Earth above the surface of the moon. The heart on Pluto. Queen Elizabeth as a child giving a Nazi salute.

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