In this article Fontcuberta argues how the limits separating digital “photography” from analog photography are more semantic than formal, and how the nature of both disciplines bring the former closer to pictorialism and the latter closer to documentalism. In order to do so, he starts from the anathema pronounced by Christian Boltanski before the audience attending the Arles Festival: “Photography is photojournalism; the rest is painting”, which, according to the author, is both provocative and propositional.

Originally, photography is linked more to the need to solve an optical and chemical problem with which to create a device to replace the “drawing machines” with the aim of producing more realistic images. The way in which the image was recorded (generated) simultaneously (and automatically) in the photographic film constitutes a fundamental element of photography, which differentiates it from the painting in which the image is constructed on the basis of lines and dots manually. The first is a generative system, while the second is constructive. From this principle derives the idea that photography is an imprint and immaculate reflection of reality, and is therefore covered with a documentary quality.

This ability to project simultaneously and without manual intervention the whole scene in the negative gave a dimension of veracity to the photograph, and although we know that the photographer administers certain parameters of the capture, the sense that he has that his actions impact on the entire image gives that sensation of documentary transparency on which has been based the realistic discourse of photography.

In addition, the fact that photography was done through a machine external to the operator created a separation between the image and the subject that was interpreted as a liberation from subjectivity, and therefore photography could not be considered as an act of expression since it was not subject to an organism governed by our will.

And although the documentary heritage of photography is great, the situation is more complex. Experimental currents have enriched the capacity of expression of photography, especially through hybridization with other means of expression, where there is not only a technological transfer but also a conceptual intoxication (passages). Popular culture and public receptivity are one of the main reasons for this crossbreeding (example: John Baldessari).

This hybridization introduces a paradox: the evolution of photography moves it further and further away from its own definition, since although the camera is a machine, the photographer is not a robot and in each photographic act a series of decisions are taken that mobilize all the spheres of subjectivity. The history of photography is the chronicle of a transubstantiation, the story of how the document becomes art (painting).

The histories of photography insist on the alternation between a documentary photograph and an authorial photograph (restrictive expansive, stoic-epicurean): denigrated by critics and historians, pictorialism has been relegated to the status of aesthetic and ideological excrescence.

From the 1980s onwards, photography flourished as a cultural and artistic manifestation. Pixel, which can be manipulated independently, refers us conceptually to the idea of the point and stroke of painting and we can conclude that while analog photography inscribes, digital photography writes.

One of the defects of digital photography is the excess of control and perfectionism, whose consequences are anodyne works, denatured and devoid of emotion. This leads us to think that photography is at the end of an evolutionary cycle, which predisposes us to the beginning of a new visual order: postphotography, which frees digital photography from the corset that imprisons it (the similarity with analog photography), and which ultimately means the great revenge of pictorialism.

Nomenclature problem: since they are different things, should we free ourselves from the term “photography” to name digital photography? We should call it “figurative infographism” or “realistic digital painting”. The persistence of the word “photography” distorts our expectations.