Friday, 3 June 2011


What's this obsession with high definition? OK, for TV it's a technological progression and a business move. But there seems a general acceptance that clarity and high definition is a "standard". Open many a magazine and the imagery is pin-sharp and often studio-based. Lights fill in any shadow area, focus is sharp and delineated, revealing. Our TV screens whether business or not are moving from regular to HD to extra high definition.

So is it just me who doesn't see the world that way? One of my eyes never focuses even with glasses, so maybe it is just me, but I see the actual world in a less high definition state than the contemporary image seems to want to recreate that world in (or create it in to).

I gave up professional photography a long time ago, so my comment may be irrelevant. If I was working now, magazines would demand sharpness and lighting (whereas the ones I worked for often liked the indefinite, and blur was acceptable). At the time, I focused as I saw the world – often a somewhat limited focus. I often used the "modeling" light of the flash (the light used as a guide for arranging the subject before the actual flash was used) because it would provide light where there was none but wouldn't freeze the subject in permanent, bright and clear outline.

If my comments are irrelevant because I don't work in the field anymore, perhaps nevertheless there's something to be gained from Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows, then. Decades ago, he was bemoaning the loss of shadows in brightly-lit Japan, pointing out that much art and craft was designed to be seen in such non-revealing light. Now, neon-lit Japan is having to switch off superfluous light to save electricity after the problems at Fukushima. Clarity will be turned down a notch at night. While they are not exactly the same thing – focus and brightness – there is an overlap.

Perhaps how I see the world (non-HD) is going to be a new norm. Though we'll have high-definition TVs in the corner of our shadowed room.

(There is of course, plenty of contemporary imagery that doesn't fit the HD critera, I'm talking only of an accepted "standard". And I don't include in my thoughts such clear, fascinating HD imagery of the world we don't usually see!)

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