February 29, 2008

Digital Photography: A powerful communication tool

anil gulati

It is difficult to visualise a world without photography. Courtesy a lifeless piece called camera, photography has proved its worth even in such diverse fields as astronomy and medical diagnosis. How indispensable is photography in the present-day world?

AUGUST 19, was the day when the first photograph came out. It was announced by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in the year 1839, when two processes, namely optical and chemical, were used to bring out a real photograph. According to Robert Leggat’s book ‘A history of Photography’, the word "photography”, was first used by Sir John Herschel in 1839, the year when the photographic process arrived in the public domain. The word is derived from the Greek words for light and writing, i.e. photo indicating "light," and graph indicating "drawing." And photography stands for “drawing with light". Ever since the photograph came into being, this mode of expression has under-gone a dramatic change.

Photographic films were pioneered by George Eastman in 1888 when he used his first camera, which he called Kodak. From there, the graduation to 35 mm, colour films, and now the digi medium is a credit to the evolving technology. This powerful means of communication has become a mode of visual expression that has invaded our lives.

Today photography is not only about crystallizing memories or events; it is a profession; it’s fun; it is used for exchanging ideas (and of course MMS!) and what not. MMS is the abbreviation for Multi-media Messaging Service, a system for sending colour pictures and sounds as well as short written messages from one mobile phone / cell phone to another. According to a research, the amount of digital information created last year is equal to three million times the amount of information in all the books ever written. 161 exabytes of digital information were created and copied last year. An exabyte is one quintal bytes or a billion giga-bytes. If one puts this information in terms of written material it will be equal to 12 stacks of books, each extending to 93 million miles between the earth and the sun. If we proceed at the same pace, in the year 2010 it will be 988 exabytes. Lot of that is in the form of digital images.

Interestingly, all these expressions come to life, courtesy a lifeless piece called camera. Today, with the advent of digital medium we have many ways to under-take the same activity - be it a digital camera, video camera, mobile camera or web camera, one has many options. With the expansion of the web, a new dimension has been added to digital photography. Not only are photographs used by the media, to convey news, information; or by Hollywood / Bollywood to portray one’s personality; they are also used in astronomy and medical diagnosis. In fact if one wants to write on its use, it will warrant a separate compendium. A simpler way to realise its usefulness is to think of a world without photographs.

But it has its negatives too - photographs can be used for many unwanted purposes, like swaying opinions, etc. Lovers of photography feel that with the advent of digital technology, the opportunity to derive satisfaction by producing a piece of art has been denied to the photographer and it has even impacted ethics in photography. But, on the other hand, it has given rise to a new breed of photographers who have taken this up as a hobby.