Look here and you’ll see a Flickr post that originally started this thought.
…(have an essay for my) History of Photography course and it is debating (either for or against) the importance of the material object (ie. digital photographs vs. hard copies or film photographs).
This is the quote we have been given…
“In the digital age, the significance of the material object remains. Culturally inflected decisions are made about which images will be printed out as snaps, which as framable enlargements, and which will be discarded. Another palette of choices relates to manipulation of the original file. Such possibilities continue to underline the importance of materiality in our relationship with photographs.”
— Elizabeth Edwards Bibliography
I suppose the point of such a topic is really designed to make students think critically, although I reflect back on my own undergrad work & realize that no such outcome could possibly be – not for the majority. No, in the undergrad world there is limited time to really concentrate on any one such task – this, combined with the eventual exhaustion from non-stop study, leads to a forced laziness in thinking. Perhaps ‘laziness’ isn’t the correct word – it’s rather a need for self-preservation that forces one to think on a more superficial level than might otherwise be the case.
Now, this all being said: is there room in the modern world for the material object? The question itself strikes me as odd, as I consider the display of a digital print to be material. Digital frame, mobile phone, computer screen: the displays may be ephemeral, but are nonetheless material.
What strikes me as odd is that there is an implied line: if the image is discerned from reflected light (CMYK), then it is material. If it is from emitted light (RGB), it is not. And yet it is the same light that reaches your eyes.
After having reflected critically on this for several days, I have come to the personal conclusion that the question is utterly meaningless. The delineation between material and otherwise strikes me as entirely arbitrary. There will always be a need for imagery, and the import of the image and display will always come down to the intended use.