Once upon a time, in a class on existentialism at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, I came across the philosopher, Vilém Flusser, and I have been thinking about his collection of essays titled, Towards A Philosophy of Photography, ever since. I don't pretend to understand his work as a whole, but I want to share one of the interesting passages that resonated with me. In the essay titled The Photograph, Flusser interprets Black and White and Color photographs and the different ways they convey information:
"many photographers... also prefer black-and-white photographs to colour photographs because they more clearly reveal the actual significance of the photograph, i.e. the world of concepts.
The first photographs were black and white and still clearly acknowledged their origin in the theory of optics. However, with the advance of another theory, that of chemistry, colour photographs were also finally possible. It looked as if photographs first abstracted the colours from the world in order to smuggle them back in. In reality, however, the colours of photographs are at least as theoretical as black and white.
...but between the green of the photograph and the green of the field a whole series of complex encodings have set in, a series that is more complex than that which connects the grey of the field photograph in black and white with the green of the field. In this sense the field photographed in green is more abstract than the one in grey. Colour photographs are on a higher level of abstraction than black-and-white ones. Black-and-white photographs are more concrete and in this sense more true: they reveal their theoretical origin more clearly, and vice versa: The 'more genuine' the colours of the photograph become, the more untruthful they are, the more they conceal their theoretical origin."(42-44) -Vilém Flusser
This passage reminds me that photographs are, and always will be, abstractions of reality. Does the unending fine tuning of the digital image (the advancement of sensors, the expansion of latency, the advancement of color rendition etc.) add to the illusion of the image? Does this development in 'accuracy' hide the constrained nature of photography with its origins in optics, and chemistry? And does that create a type of deception for anyone who looks at photographs without this insight!?
I'm not sure. I think the ability to reproduce the colors of something 'more accurately' is beneficial when creating commercial photography of unique things as it translates more specific information about the thing. But this information may be 'more specific' relative to the ability of other cameras and not to the reality of color. Perhaps part of the feeling of trickery in imagery, that we attribute to the digital age of photography, is rooted in the claims of 'accuracy' of images as well as the modification of them.
Flusser, Vilém. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2000. Print.