Photorealism Can Be Boring

Sometimes the primitive stuff is more exciting

A few years ago, I got a video out from the public library called "The Puzzle Channel". It was a TV show from 1994 that featured short puzzles and mysteries for the viewer to solve. They were all pretty standard puzzles and brain teasers that revolved around a picture from which the viewer had to guess the answer to the riddle or the word that the image described.

What interested me the most was their use of "circa-1994" computer graphics to make the pictures that provided the visual clues for the various puzzles. Although, at the time, they were trying to produce cutting-edge, state of the art computer graphics, when I saw these episodes ten years later (2004) they had acquired a vintage, old-fashioned style to them which was probably never intended, and was in fact probably just the opposite impression that the original audience would have had.

Never judge an image by the number of colors in its palette

Things have changed very quickly in the computing/digital world and now graphics often have a near (close, but not perfect) photographic appearance making one uncertain at times whether they are viewing a computer-made image or a photograph of something real. It's strange then, that the old style -- primitive -- computer graphics of The Puzzle Channel would have any sort of appeal to someone like me or anyone with any knowledge of computer graphics who one would expect to admire only that which is current and represents the latest technology.

I think however, that it reveals something about art that is very relevant to the digital art world but is something that has yet to be grasped by many who enjoy digital art: Photorealism can be boring!

Imitating reality is pointless in a world of easy realism (i.e. photography) and in a world which, as stupid as this may sound, realism is common and hardly eye-catching because we see it everywhere, everyday.

I mention this particularly because I've gotten the impression from browsing online digital art galleries, that many people seem to feel that the apex of digital imagery is the imitation of real things -- photorealism -- and that anything that looks "rough" or "primitive" or "poorly anti-aliased" is shrugged off as unprofessional, unskilled or ugly.

With millions of colors available at no extra cost, black and white is unnecessary

I think digital art is stuck in a very limited (and boring) role of trying to "beat photography" and come up with images that provoke the response, "Wow! I can't believe that's not a photograph!". Although occasionally this may be a rewarding pursuit, it's a creative dead end. What that means for the future I believe, is that the more interesting and more creative digital work will be produced by people who pursue the types of imagery that have never been seen before and don't currently have categories or convenient labels. Faking photographs won't make that happen.


Image notes: I started with a previous image and applied, Really Falling off the Paper.8bf and Mirror, Mirror, and some coloring filter that produced the simple color scheme.

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