Fundementals of digital imaging

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Title: Fundementals of digital imaging
Author: Wittwer, Christian
Abstract: This thesis project shows that conventional photography and digital imaging are two visual media with very distinct differences: A conventional photograph is a human-readable information entity with an actual physical body in the form of silver clusters or color molecules embedded in gelatin. Silver halide materials have a chemical attribute and are organic, almost "living" organisms affected by heat, moisture, light and pollution, similar as we are. The actual information contained in a photographic image is always overlaid by an unwanted signal called noise. In conventional photography noise becomes visual as graininess. The amount of information in a photographic image cannot be determined exactly and there is always a significant loss of information from image generation to image generation (multiple generation loss). Because objects record themselves on light sensitive silver halide materials using light as a messenger, a photographic image is directly connected to reality, stenciled from the real. This fact is one of the reasons why photography as a medium has a high level of credibility. Despite all the medium inherent subjective, selective and abstractive factors, photography still has the stamp of an objective and reliable source of information, a stamp of authenticity. A digital image is an immaterial, machine-readable stream of bits in the form of a matrix. This numeric structure can be easily altered and manipulated, not only in the space but also in the frequency domain. The solid bond which connects the conventional photographic image to reality disappears with digital imagery. The image is simply itself, has no chemical attribute, and contains no evidence that something existed in reality. The amount of information in a digital image can be exactly determined. However, there is also a certain amount of noise present which, however, cannot be compared with the graininess of photographic materials. Digital information can be compressed with or without a visual loss. Transmission of digital information is easier and more reliable because the information can be error corrected. More than 150 years after the discovery of the photographic process, the wide availability of the tools of digital imaging make it clear to the public that mechanical images are not, and never have been, a reliable source of information. This thesis project points out that the belief in the objectivity of photographic information was, and is, an illusion. The thesis project Fundamentals of Digital Imaging analyzes the basic concepts of digital imaging not only theoretically but also visually by including six plates of digital artwork.
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Date: 1995-09

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