film meant time, effort, and chemicals to bring images into the world. haven’t we all be mesmerized when, processing a sensitized paper, the picture slowly reveals itself in the developing bath? before our eyes, a perfect record of what took place earlier is coming alive again. this phenomenon allowed bazin to talk of photography as embalming an otherwise evanescent present. once the photographic image was finalized, it was also meant to stay that way. similarly, with film, all the prints sent to theaters were meant to be perfect duplicates of the final answer print. in theory at least, the film could travel around the world without losing its fundamental qualities. paradoxically it is these marvelously elemental qualities of film that make it look archaic today.
as we know, digital couldn’t be further from the materiality, inflexibility, and permanency of film. what is picked up is a heap of data that never coagulates into a stable, secure formation. no longer prisoner of long term memory, the new technology naturally embraces changes. instead of freezing a perfect moment of time that is then endlessly replayed as in the invention of morel, digital longs for growth, variations, and transformations. it begs to regenerate itself, to be on the move, to engender manifold identities. in short it aspires to a state of permanent metamorphosis.
to sum up: film halides were expected to respond twice to outside forces: light first, the developer next. after that they were done. game over. with digital by contrast, millions of pixels are primed to burst again and again at any moment. the brewing magma cannot wait to gush forth. let the feast begin!