Luigi Cassinelli Photographer


2015 • 6 x 9 • 116 pp. • 39 illus. • $19.95

ISBN 978-0-9861801-0-1

“Dad, what is a photographer?” My daughter's question forced me to confront one widespread misconception. Photography was born when inventors succeeded in preserving the original interaction among light, matter, and human observation; so why does almost everyone in the arts, publishing industry, and education community call a numeric code designed for mutation, a photograph? In The Photographer's Choice I present my answer to this question and to my daughter's.

Digital technology is not responsible for confusion and manipulation; human decisions are accountable for ambiguity. Long before the advent of digital imaging, visual fanatics fostered the mystification of photography with doctored printing. Photography deserves semantic precision; today as in 1839, a photograph must be differentiated from generic terms like "image," "picture," and "print." The Photographer's Choice proposes a definition of the term "photograph" and introduces the term "wish-graph." Once the topic is cleared from misconceptions, this book examines the knowledge that true photographic observations disclose.

The Photographer's Choice confronts more than photographers' choices. This book questions core values in a moment when we are steering into virtual labyrinths with no real cord. Artists, editors, parents and children, photographers, scientists, and teachers face the same choice: reality or an easy denial of it?

abacus photographed with instant film

Technical note: Digital files are not material, they are not designed to be permanent, and they are not original traces of light; digital files are mutant by design. An abacus (a mechanical computing machine) can help us visualize the essence of any digital file. The image on the left shows one abacus in a specific state. The image on the right shows the VERY SAME abacus in a different state. In a similar way, electronic digital files are designed to mutate too (according to the instruction of software). The abacus displays different codes with different positions of its beads; digital files perform the same task by making use of the electronic properties of solid semiconductors (for example, RAM, hard disks). As there is no original state for an abacus, digital files do not have one, specific original state (01 or 10?); they are designed to store and discard numeric codes. Right now the digital file that your browser is reading contains one specific set of instructions, but, at any time, those instructions might change. Digitalfile.jpg is not a permanent entity, simply because it is designed to be whatever we want it to be. At any time, it "says" whatever we wish, so it is not an original document; it is not an historical document. It is not a photograph.