Thursday, January 28, 2010

silver vs numbers- what I learned

The argument over film viruses digital continues, and probably will as long as there are both darkrooms and iMacs. After reading fellow bloggers' opinions on the subject, it seems to me that the debate has come to a truce, with both sides agreeing that the two are good for different things, and are different media ( see some opinions ,,, etc).

This semester I am taking a history of photography class. The instructor, Nancy Zielinski of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, mentioned a very interesting point which I had not thought about before; digital images are made on a light sensitive chip, which computerizes and converts the photo to a series of numbers. It is simple a numeric record of a scene. When a photograph is taken on film, the light reflecting off the subject chemically alters the silver on the film strip leaving a tangible imprint.

So when I take a portrait
on my digital camera my camera records the pattern of light, as I said before as numbers. But when I use film and my 35mm camera to take a portrait the light reflecting off the person's skin directly changes the film. In a sense, a part of that person remains in the silver salts, a captured part of him/her.

(These are two photos of my sister. The color is a digital photograph, and the black and white is a scanned 35mm negative.)

So, taking that into consideration, which is better?


  1. Of course, now that you have scanned it in, the black and white is also now, in effect, numbers.

  2. Very true, but what of the original print? Would a print from the negative have different significance than a print from a digital file?