There has been an increased discussion on digital image manipulation, from TV shows (‘Ugly Betty’) to newspaper articles to YouTube.

The curse of such power is that, you have no excuse to leave room for imperfection on photos and images. And you can never believe in anything that you see on print.

No one will ever believe a UFO photo in the 21st century.

The digital image artist makes or breaks an image; not the photographer, not the make-up artist, not the sets and props.

To me, that’s a tragedy in the world of photography, where photography is an art. Imagine: what if no one paints paintings on paper or canvas, but only on computers?

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but one must realise that the trend in photography is no longer the image capturing, but the post-editing.

The art is no longer about the photographing, but the processing. Styling the image is no longer a decision made during photo-taking, but after.

I envision the day when famous people need not be in front of the camera to have their photos taken. All they need is a 3-dimensional image database, and leave the rest to digital artists. Look at how realistic movie-makers are producing animations and mythical characters.

Still cameras will be a thing of the past, and people will be taking moving images and extracting the required still frame from them, so that they have no worries about missing the moment or getting the wrong angle.

Decades ago, we wow at the technical wizardry of movies and wonder they actually capture the scenes. Today, we yawn at how movie-makers over-use computer technology to make battle scenes or panoramic views.

Movie-manipulation is yet to be affordable to consumers, so it’s quite safe for another 10 years. Not photography.

Having said that, there is one element that nothing can replace the act of photography: experience. It is the experience of being there and capturing the image that makes the art irreplaceable.

Art is no longer just about the result. Art is about the experience.

And that is why true artists cannot make a good living, because to enjoy art, one must create art, not just see art. People who make a living out of arts cannot be true artists: they are just businessmen, slaves to the economy, no different from the 9-to-5 office executives.

I think, if arts were made to be non-revenue generating, where every working professional has an active contribution to performing arts, then arts will be affordable, because there is little costs required. And perhaps people can produce lots of art works because it is not a bread-winning activity, but for fun and recreation. But that’s just my wishful thinking.

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