Traditions of Photography - Short essay
Just a short essay I wrote about the traditions of photography in anyone is interested.
I posted it on another forum and all they did was complain about sentence structure etc etc, I just want to post it to start discussion really, not ripping the essay apart. I got 18/20 for it anyway. :p
Hope you find it interesting, cheers.
Tradition plays a major part in most societies and cultures around the world. Tradition is a cultural activity that has been practiced within the particular community that has celebrated it for many years. Tradition is implemented in most cultural activities and societies around the world. This essay will be talking about the tradition in photography.
In it’s most basic sense, tradition in photography can be looked at as pictures that have been taken on a camera that uses black and white film and then developed by hand in a darkroom. (http://www.photogs.com/bwworld/backtobw.html) This is traditional photography because it was the only way to truly capture a moment as it was for many years. Tradition in this sense refers to the original way in which the medium was developed in to an artistic form. These days with modern technology, digital cameras and ease of photo manipulation, photography has taken more of a contemporary form and is losing it’s traditional black and white roots.
Photography has always been a medium for communication. The photographer has huge bias implemented in the image that they take and each image can have several meanings. Ever since photography has been around (circa 1840)(http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/dagprocess.htm) it has been used for telling stories and documenting the world. Photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams were two of the earliest documenters and started the tradition of story telling with photographs. Henri Cartier-Bresson told his stories through documenting daily life and Ansel Adams through documenting landscapes. These photographers and these types of photography are seen as traditional because they have used their images to depict society and show views of life which would never normally be seen to the untrained eye. They had the ability to capture life as it had never been before.
Since the implementation of modern technology and more importantly digital cameras photography has seen a loss of tradition. The base of traditional photography, 35mm black and white film is quickly being eradicated and is now seen as inconvenient and slow when compared to the speed and accessibility of colour film or digital cameras. Along with this loss of 35mm black and white film, we generally see a decline in image quality as people simply ‘snap’ lots of photos instead of waiting for the ‘decisive moment’ (http://www.photo-seminars.com/Fame/bresson.htm) to take the photograph. This new digital age has however allowed for new traditions in photography starting to be implemented. One of these being people wanting to see in to the lives of other people. This is where new styles such as social photography and paparazzi photography have emerged. These new styles of photography have become highly accepted in todays society and have evolved in to multi-million dollar industries.
One of the key traditions emerging in modern photography is that of image manipulation. In our society it is rare to see an image which hasn’t been digitally altered to some extent. Of course photographers who shot on 35mm black and white film could alter their photographs with darkroom equipment, altering the contrast and brightness and even creating powerful advertising campaigns. (reference steve bronstein, special effect photography) but it couldn’t be done to the extent and ease it is done today. Nowadays with powerful computer programs such as photoshop we have to question images in wether they are telling the truth or not as image manipulation is so easily done. This has a huge impact on mass media in that an image can be altered to provoke a more emotional response from the viewer. For example in 2003 Brain Walski a renowned photojournalist for the LA times took two images and merged them into one to create a more dramatic scene. (http://www.famouspictures.org/mag/in...Forgery_-_2003)
At the time this caused a huge controversy finally resulting in the photographer Brian Walski being fired and the LA Times reputation diminished. This is proof of one of the major negative effects and downsides to ease of photo manipulation.
With the rapidly evolving technologies of digital photography replacing the old traditions of black and white film, we are seeing a continuous loss in the beauty of photography or the decisive moment. It is being replaced by this new tradition of using digital technology and cameras to show the world what we are doing. Nowadays everyone who has a mobile phone has a camera, everyone who has a camera uploads their photos to facebook or other social sources to show everyone else what they’ve been doing. We now live in a ‘snap society’ where pictures and moments are crudely snapped instead of capturing the decisive moment. With people taking such rudimentary photographs which hardly tell a story it leads to people needing to ‘snap’ more and more images in order to tell the story. In years to come we will see 35mm film be completely eradicated and the new digital world take over and form it’s own traditions.
Photography and tradition
first, thank you for contributing to a debate which is more or less eternal : "how to express visually what you feel must be expressed".
Photography is one of several techniques to present your ideas on a flat medium; oil, water colour, pencil drawing, etc., digital imaging, and analog photography are all competing, it's just that digital is brand new and so easy to access that millions (or billions) of people adopt it. I don't believe that the millions (or billions) of digital users will all produce wonders to be remembered as Nadar, Stieglitz, Strand, Man Ray, HCB etc., but maybe a few of them will and that justifies (IMHO) the technique.
This said, I definitely think there is a huge difference between a digital print and a traditional silver-based print - personally I could'nt make digitally what I want to present, therefore I continue to work in my darkroom! And there will always be some (probably quite many) who react like me, so traditional photography is in no way deemed to extinction. We are fewer than before which make it a bit more complicated to buy photo materials, but fortunately there is the internet.
Again thank you for opening this discussion, let's hope we can live peacefully forever with our neighbours, the digital crowd.