I’m a collector of photography books. Well, I have a few of them anyway. It’s not a very big collection. Especially compared to my comic book collection. They’re not all in one place but I would guess I have about twenty photography books. Occasionally I pull one down and look at it.

One I recently took down off the shelf, a book I haven’t looked at in years, I found especially interesting. It’s”Digital Diaries” by Natacha Merritt. This book was controversial when it first came out in 2000 because it deals with sex. It was accused of being pornography and I can see why but I got nothing against pornography. It’s no more evil than society at large.

“Digital Diaries” consists of Natacha Merritt taking pictures of herself in various stages of undress and also in various sexual acts. That’s why it was accused of being porn or alternately “a young woman exploring her sexuality” blah blah blah. You know the drill. If your offended by such stuff stay away from this book.

What I found most interesting about the book looking back at it all these years later is how it turned out to be such a fleeting work that will never be duplicated. Digital photography back in 2000 was hardly what it is now. I got my first digital camera back in November of 2000 and that was only a three megapixel model. The one Merritt was using wasn’t even that good.

It probably says somewhere in the book what camera she used by I don’t really care. It was a low resolution one far from what any professional would use then or today. The pictures are blocky and full of jpeg artifacts. They are nothing like what we are used to now and this book would never be published today. If you read reviews of the book on Amazon, or some such, lots of people laughed at the quality of the photos. And for good reason.

But it’s the quality of the photos that makes it interesting for me now. And it’s not really the quality of the photos but the quality of the digital camera they were made on. The period of time where this was the state of the digital art was brief and I doubt many books were published using the digital photography of that time. What serious photographer would chose a low res camera that produced images much worse than his film camera to make a book? Not many I guess and no other books that I know of.

All photo books printed these days that are made from digital photographs are indistinguishable from film photography books. That’s how far digital photography has come in such a short time. That’s why we’ll never see a book like this again. It’s a time capsule.

Sure there might be some photographers who choose to work with a low res camera just like there are those who like cheap or toy cameras but that’s a gimmick. Irony as a gimmick annoys me but that’s just an aside. And low res cameras won’t be easy to come by. There weren’t really that many of them. More likely a photographer will res-down his photo on the computer to get that low res effect. That’s what makes this book unique. The low res isn’t an effect. It’s a refection of the time. And most likely no one will publish a high end photo book of low resolution photos. That time has passed.

The photography in the book is actually pretty good. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I like it. A hot chick taking pictures of herself having sex yet trying to make something more out of it than dirty pictures is always an interesting subject. I’ll take it over horses, dogs, or barns but then again I like portrait photography best in general.

The low res quality of the images makes them look like that are from some other time and place. Not quite the world we know but no one is trying to fool us into thinking they’re from another time and place. They just are. They are from a brief moment when digital photography was a completely different beast than regular photography. Now the two are the same thing and we’ve forgotten they were ever so different. And as far as I can tell Natacha Merritt has pretty much been forgotten too. Freaky.