The roots of digital imaging (DI) predate 1994, and the "digital era" in image recording and manipulation of course continues as we speak. However, I would define "the Digital Transition" as the period of photographic history from 1994 to 2011.
There was some confusion as to what I meant by the phrase "The Digital/Internet Era" in Monday's post, and whether it meant any "Great Photographers of..." had to be digital photographers.
No. It's a period of time, not a limiting definition of the people who worked during that time.
Why those dates?
1994 was the year that the Japanese company Epson introduced the Epson Stylus Color, the first home desktop printer to approach photo-quality output with piezoelectric technology. Since output was what was holding back many photographers from taking their first tentative steps with digital at the time, my feeling is that this is the best landmark to use for the real start of the seismic shift that followed, the shift of photography enthusiasts en masse to digital.
2011 is the end point because of the bankruptcy of Kodak in very early 2012. Film still exists, of course (and probably always will); photographers still use it (ditto); but the future of imaging is no longer in much doubt, and it clearly doesn't involve silver-halide-based emulsions. 2011 doesn't mark the end of film; it is merely a handy end-point for the period of the Transition. (As Chris Lucianu so beautifully put it below, "the Kodak bankruptcy marks the point where the perennity of long-established, ubiquitous photochemical resources has ceased to be taken for granted." Aptly put, because the availability of resources is the real key for the practitioner, not his or her allegiances.)
Such beginning- and end-points are merely mileposts along the roadway. Arbitrary? Perhaps, as the definitions of historical periods usually are. But...serviceable.
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Chris Lucianu: "Dear Mike, I must once more admire your perceptiveness. In my daytime profession (quantitative archaeology), exact periodisation is a contentious issue. The closer the past, the more noise to obfuscate data. It's easy to detect critical junctions: peaks and tipping points. It's more difficult to perceive inflection points: the points where tendencies invert their sign. As Wikipedia puts it: If one imagines driving a vehicle along a winding road, inflection is the point at which the steering-wheel is momentarily "straight" when being turned from left to right or vice versa. The inflection points you have identified for your definition of the Digital Transition period are, in my view, perfect: The Epson Stylus Color was the first inkjet printer I bought for photographic work, along with a Nikon LS-II slide scanner and a Miro color-calibrated CRT. From then on, the digital portion of my photographic workflow has been ever increasing, and ever since predominant. The Kodak bankruptcy marks the point where the perennity of long-established, ubiquitous photochemical resources has ceased to be taken for granted."
Mike replies: I was reflecting as I wrote this that you have to identify the beginning point by looking at the milieu from the standpoint of a digital adopter and enthusiast (film diehards would pick a later point), and you have to look at the endpoint by looking at the milieu from the standpoint of a film user and enthusiast (digital converts would pick an earlier point). Most people are able to see it from one point of view or the other but not both, and of course each of those groups were in the minority at each respective time—digital enthusiasts were in the minority in 1994, and film diehards were in the minority in 2011. My predilictions and sympathies—not to mention the objectivity I necessarily have to bring to serving both groups here at TOP—means I have to survey the scene from both groups' point of view.