Are photographers becoming Jacks of all, masters of none?
Just read a comment from someone over at On Landscape (http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2012/08...nking-feeling/). The post had to do with the threat to the traditional photographer's methodology this recent news from Kodak represents. It reiterated the problem many photographers are now facing - both established and serious amateurs, aiming to solidify a future proof working method in order to actually focus on making images. This procrastination of "Should I shoot Ilford? Maybe I'll carry on shooting Kodak for a bit first?" is an absolute nightmare for a photographer who actually wants to get things done.
The article at On Landscape was written by photographer David Ward, who has been shooting Velvia 50 in 5x4 exclusively for many years and whose approach to photography has a very close relationship with this film. He is now forced to either shoot another transparency film (until it's inevitably dropped) colour neg (a considerably different workflow) or digital... Fortunately for him, this photographer has a very refined eye and style and a change of material 'only' means developing a new technique. I'm sure David faces a certain 'cooling off' period while he makes some decisions and eventually begins to refine a new workflow, which must be an incredibly daunting prospect for someone at his level. What would have become of Ansel Adams, during his peak, had he been faced with such a fundamental upheaval to his creative process? "Sorry Mr. Adams, the zone system has been discontinued."
For photographers still trying to find their voice and a consistency in their approach, this inevitable shifting around, using a variety of films and processes - maybe hybrid some of the time, black and white darkroom work at others - seems equally detrimental to the production of great, deeply explored work. My favourite photographers are generally specialists, both in terms of subject matter and craft/style (David Ward is definitely one of those). For work to have real depth of insight, the photographer has generally devoted himself to a very particular way of working/thinking/exploring in my mind. That almost sacrificial discipline, which many of the great artists/scientists had, has always been for the greater good of progression - for them to give themselves over. With all this dabbling with materials and techniques becoming the norm, will it force photographers to become Jacks of all, masters of none - photographic ADD? Or maybe, as someone else on APUG said, it will cause photographers to explore the medium once again, e.g. early Paul Strand, Kertesz, Sudek, Callahan. That might not be so bad. However, I think we really need some artists to give themselves over to a very specific concern or field, which is driven by sticking to one simplified and refined working method which provides that solid foundation. The future doesn't seem to favor these types of artists who, in my opinion, have shaped so much of what we know. Help?