The Digital Skeptic: Investors Would Do Well to Get Real, Not Digital

RIO DEI FRARI, VENICE, Italy (TheStreet) -- Sure, it's a bummer of a bull market, but it's a bull nonetheless. Time to buy a stock and hold it. That makes it time to check in with my favorite expert in what's of real value over time: Mr. Gianni Berengo Gardin.

Gardin is not hard to find. There's no need to go overboard as I did and blow $110 on a water limo to get down a chilly, cramped Venetian canal to get the man to autograph his latest book of photographs. Just search up the man and you'll find, geez, hundreds of carefully crafted, mostly black-and-white photographs.

It's a body of work that gets investors in direct touch with what really holds value over time: reality.

"His greatness lies in his simplicity," writes photo critic Denis Curti in the intro to Stories of a Photographer, Gardin's latest collection. "Or rather, his ability to render the complexity of the world comprehensible."

There's also the fact that Gardin is loath to adopt 21st century digital imaging tools.

"All photographs in the exposition and catalogue are real photographs that have not been rectified, modified or fabricated in the computer," is what's printed in bold near his photos.

Instead, Gardin's genius lies in working with traditional silver emulsion-on-negative film, loaded into mechanical cameras. Gardin finds the right subject, sets his gear up in the right spot and waits for the right time to take the right image.

A Grand Canal-level commitment to reality makes him an unlikely -- yet critical -- investor touchstone. Because if long-term value is what you seek, relying on virtual numerical analysis in this overloaded, by-the-numbers era turns ugly fast.