I know I'm alone in this, but I continue to think we should use different terms for pre- and post-digital-era recordings of lens images. I know digital imaging has fully co-opted the word "photography" and optical/chemical photography has been relegated to the awkward and imprecise back-formation "analog," but I continue to think of "photography" as "light writing"—a reaction caused by the light through a lens—and digital as the light from a lens mapped and made plastic, with all the potential that implies. They're fundamentally different things. They deserve different names.
Of course human beings have a tendency to create continuity linguistically even where it's questionable—hence things like "horsepower" and "carbon copy" and "I'm going to hang up now." But "Digital photography" isn't even any easier to say than "digital imaging," and imaging and its potentiality is simply different than what "analog" photographers had to deal with. That will become more clear as digital imaging becomes less and less about "capturing" one single "still" instant of one specific view all at once on one large sensor.
Maybe when digital imaging grows up, it will be comfortable having its own name.
UPDATE 12/5: Ctein suggested privately that the terms "film photography" and "digital photography" probably make the most sense, and I'm inclined to agree, given that a "good compromise" has to be made between rigorous good sense on the one hand and common parlance on the other. I continue to feel that most people (globally, not here in particular) automatically make this into a status issue and argue as partisans of their own particular practice, which has the effect of blinding us and preventing us from being able to look objectively both at what we have lost and what we have gained in the current great shift. I guess that matter will be left to future historians to parse...although I fear they, too, because they will not have one foot in each camp, will make a mangle of it. —Mike
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Featured Comments from:
01af: "I absolutely cannot see the slightest reason why photography using film should be called 'photography' and photography using a semiconductor sensor should not."
Mike replies: Because the photograph is like a plaster cast of a bear print, and a digital image is a replica or model of the plaster cast of the bear print (if you're up on your art history you'll recognize the source of the metaphor).
latent_image: "Well, I guess I'm a rock in the big stream that's flowing past because I'd like there to be an elegant distinction in terminology. I'm not optimistic, however. To my mind 'analog' photography has a physicality that is not often present in 'digital' photography: emulsion, substrate, chemical baths, etc. There is no analog photograph until it is rendered in a physical form one can actually handle, and all the steps in the rendering involve tangible materials and substances. The vast majority of digital photographs are virtual; they only exist when shown on a screen. Few are ever printed or given any kind of physical form. I think there is a difference."
Kefyn Moss: "You're right Mike. Your first sentence sums it up—you're alone in this."
Earl Dunbar: "I'm writing this before reading all the other comments, but you are not alone, Mike. They are fundamentally different crafts. It just happens that the final outputs (I'm talking about prints here,) are similar enough to appear to be the same objects. They carry the same purpose and in the eye of most viewers, the differences don't seem to matter. Different methods of painting (oil, pastels, watercolour, etc.,) are still called painting, but everyone recognizes the differences. As digital imitates film/chemical photography, I think its success in doing so is the problem."
Steve Smith: "I am 99% a film photographer but I consider both digital and film origination to be photography. There is a point in post-processing where it becomes something else though. The problem is that no one can agree where that point is, as it's subjective. There are many HDR images and other manipulated images I have seen which are well past the point of being photographs."