Just a little random thought from me today as I was discussing photography with my friend and mentor Jack Graham. As things often do between us, our conversation switched often between photography and music as both of us have a passion for both arts. Jack had recently acquired a turntable for his stereo and we were discussing the joys of playing records as I too have had a turntable for many years now in my high end audio system. As photographers, we strive to make connections through our images with an audience, which causes me to constantly examine human nature and how we process information and images that are presented to us through the deluge of avenues available to us.
The point that I made with him is that many people get a different type of enjoyment out of listening to LP records and how it’s different than the enjoyment listening to CD’s. CD’s are more resolving of the last iota of musical information, able to achieve resolution that LPs will never be able to achieve. CD’s generally don’t suffer from hiss or scratches or dirt, which LPs are susceptible to. By all logical reasoning, people should always prefer CD’s over LPs. However, the LPs bring an amazing quality to the music that CDs will never be able to achieve, that’s the “analog feel” of the music. Hearing live music, in it’s natural state, the music reaches our ears in waveforms, directly from the instrument producing the sound. We can “feel” the music. It has a warmth, harmony, a gestalt, about hearing it that triggers very different feelings in us. It feels more natural, more real and we generally connect with it at a deeper level. With digital, we can marvel at the resolution, the “perfect sound forever” and all the other accolades. My opinion is that these are cerebral, thinking reactions to the music. The other way to say that is that digital is more of the mind. With analog, it is more of the heart, we develop a more basal connection to it.
Somewhat the same analogy can be made in the photographic world. As a former film shooter and now full digital shooter, I have experienced both worlds intimately and I feel the same sorts of reactions when I view film images versus digital images. Like LPs, film does not have the resolution power nor the dynamics of a digital file. We as image creators do not have as much latitude in creating with film as you can only manipulate the file so much versus digital. Yet, when viewing a film image, I find a certain amount of “authenticity” and “warmth” and “realness” that is oftentimes not present in digital files. Many people try and process their digital files to give an analog feel, yet, we are still working with 1’s and 0’s and no matter how much processing we do, it is still a digital file. We are taking a representation of the analog world around us and processing it through a digital environment for presentation. Something gets a bit lost in translation I think.
We as humans are analog creatures and we live in an analog world. Many of us respond in different ways to analog inputs versus digital inputs. Perhaps its just a sign of my age, having lived in the pre-digital world and now in the digital world. Perhaps this concept will not even be a “thing” for my kids who are growing up in a purely digital world. At least not consciously. However, I feel that we as humans, being analog creatures, will always respond in different ways to “analog” or “real” inputs so go on out there and have a real analog experience!