Photography's Unintended Obsolescence...?....
There is some rather spirited discussion in other threads about film's fate, Kodak's C-11, etc. But what about Photography, the craft it self?
I started to post a reply to a comment and then soon saw it was no longer the focus of the thread, so here goes...
Most of the arts have survived the digital / internet onslaught just fine, but not photography...
Originally Posted by Michael W
I don't hear many dancers, musicians, oil painters or fine wood workers complaining about Ones&Zeros much at all, if ever. Sure, Most of them could learn to use Garage Band, Corel Draw or some CAD-like program on a sophisticated wood lathe, but between public perception and the artists wanting to use their hands, their crafts are not likely to change much. In music, there is a lot more electronic being used, so it is most like photography when one considers all the disruption, but most musicians I know still use "Film" in the form of a 6 string or real drums. Writers have also been hit hard with arm chair bloggers but there is still room for the New York Times Best Seller list. By the way, the New York Times pays writers on average 3-8X as much as they do photographers.
But poor photography, wow, what a technological-internet-hype orgy and what a shame. The perception changes alone of what actually makes a great photograph in the public eye are astonishing. Instead of hanging out with friends or colleagues with prints in hand getting a good critique, there are the photo website back patting circles of often undue praise. "Great Capture!" has possibly been said on flickr in nearly the same number as registered users. No one wants a world where they can no longer hear a guitar by a campfire, but film is got to be on the top 5 list of the internet hype, favorite things to bash / dissect engine and photography it self on the top 10.
I got into photography when I was 8, reason being that the images I saw in magazines like National Geographic or of Ansel Adam's image of the Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO, made me grateful I got to see the result of someone's talent and hard work. Ansel's image, while not my favorite by any means, caused me to find that peak on a map. So at age 11, I studied the map in geography and decided I was to move there…at age 30, I did and have been here ever since.
Besides inspiration with cool locals in Geographic, photography engaged me at a young age because it actually seemed harder than what I was doing before, drawing, which I was fairly good at. It turned out to be true, I shot hundreds of crap pictures for many years before I felt like I had a handle on it. I admire great guitar players, dancers & wood carvers for same reason, I see how hard the work is they do, but I see how they revel in the rewards of years of practice and knowing they have talent that others either do not have or have not fostered. So we get to share it, not everyone can do it and we celebrate the fact that others can, that is big part of the arts…
But photography does not look like that anymore, if you are to believe what you read on this here "Entire-net"…It's changed, partly for the better, but mostly not. The value is dropping, and I am not always talking about the commercial value which has dropped too, but the value of something worth pursuing because it is unique or not, hand made or not…worth your time in making a defined, refined and self reflecting statement…or not.
I have no doubt that there will be very talented, master craftsman making emotion stirring images on film in 20 years from now, film's transition to "Alternative Process" is nearly complete. But will photography being made 20 years from now inspire a young 8 year old boy craving a direction for his talents to hop on board the ride like it did me in 1975? I have my doubts….
Because I think the very thing that is driving photography to record levels of hype will have simply urinated too long in the fresh water supply that drew people in and that thing is technology. People want a challenge in their pastime or vocation, if the perception now is anyone can do it and there are billions of images lost in a sea of it self, why would they bother and what does that hold for the future of photography it self?
On my light table along with a cheap Iston loupe and 35mm KR64 is an original 8" x 10" Kodachrome. It's artistic in it's lighting, a technological marvel in that it was shot in 1946, a nice image of actress Ruth Hussy and a piece of history. It is what I call a narrative image, truthful or not. And like that image of the Maroon Bells by Ansel, it makes me think about what is important in life…family, health and time. It's a narrative lost in some ways and not because of digital the medium, but digital, the way of thinking…
In 20 years, I am afraid the term "photography" will be as archaic as the term "Film"…
I hope I am wrong, but I am using film to set my self from the pack, just in case and because I love the journey...
Last edited by PKM-25; 03-06-2012 at 01:49 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I think that in many ways you're right that photography as an art is being degraded by the enormous number of "practitioners". However, this hasn't really changed top-tier photography. National Geographic still has amazing photographs, and there are still talented photographers out there that can blow your mind with the images they capture.
What we're witnessing is culture changing I believe. Welcome to globalization, welcome to the age of the internet. Marshall Mcluhan saw it coming over 60 years ago. It's changing the way we perceive the world, particularly newer entrants (a.k.a. kids).
I would say that music was fundamentally changed in a similar way with the advent of multi-track recording. The kind of culture that existed before this focused on live performance, and it had become a highly refined art form with amazing groups, bands & ensembles. Kids today though never consider the importance of their live performance when it comes to making recordings. Take it from me... I'm a kid! However, where there's a gap or a drought of talent, someone well poised will come along and fill it, potentially in a revolutionary way.
Everything changes, but photography isn't going anywhere, it's just going to develop a new culture.
I agree, there is still great stuff being shot everyday, but it is the 15-25 year from now point I wonder about. I just get out a lot in my career of shooting and I talk to a *lot* of people, including artists and musicians, they wonder the same things I do as they too, have seen photography take a royal beating in the past 5-8 years. Like it or not, people have less respect for it as it seems far easier to them now, and it is everywhere.
Maybe I should do live performances of photography at that point, have people sit in a large darkroom with a band playing while I print right in front of them...
My girlfriend and I talk about this often. Her opinion is that quality work will always float to the top, irrespective of the noise level below. Collectors, museums, curators, etc will determine what is worth collecting, and the creators of that work will become the next Dorothea Lange, Cartier-Bresson, Alec Soth, or Elliot Erwitt. Their work will likely not be similar, but they will be the next superstars, added to the 'hall of fame' of past superstars.
I hope that she is right, and that there will continue to be a critically high level of the 'creme de la creme' of photography in decades to come. It may not be what you and I like, but it will be what somebody likes. One thing I think is for certain, the Flickr and Instagram backslapping I don't think really leads to anything. People are aggressive in following or being followed by others, and I suppose perhaps some of it might become recognized and rise above the noise, much like popular music coming from mass media popularity shows like American Idol (or similar vehicles of moneymaking). I don't know if it will last and be remembered, though. Who knows?
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera".
- Yousuf Karsh
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit".
There is no question that quality work rises to the top, regardless of medium. I am not saying that photography might not be worth pursuing in the future, I just get the deep seated feeling that it is *SO* not done morphing yet, so it is therefore hard for me to chart out the bigger picture of it all.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
For example, I photograph people quite a bit. In some cases of public perception, I have seen it go from noble pursuit to flat out creepy in the course of some 5 years. In talking to some very well known Magnum shooters, I find they echo this sentiment as things that had been "normal" to shoot over the course of decades now suddenly meet with paranoia or disdain, 911 related or not. I'm not talking about paparazzi level intrusion but I am talking about brilliant candid narrative all the same. Though not paranoid about it, it does have my attention as I detect sweeping changes in the public's perception to everything-cameras as utterly invasive as it has become. And that is in addition to all the rest that is changing such as the yardstick of a good photo, the commercial value of it, what the term photography now embraces...
It's a big pie, you can't eat the whole thing at once and you don't really want to, so in some ways, you have to simplify and that goes for the viewer too. I'm not changing directions in my career or the mediums I use as a manner of retreat, just going with the flow I was already on, but the carnage all around, good God, what a mess.....
Last edited by PKM-25; 03-06-2012 at 03:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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Technology + digital = gross dilution of talent. It doesn't mean the talent isn't out there but it is certainly a lot more work to sift the through the sea of crap that the internet generation creates. Will it get worse? Maybe. And, don't get me wrong, there was always lots of junk generated on film, before digital and the internet, but it was certainly less and it stayed home. Today, it's plastered everywhere within seconds.
I don't think the general public ever had that good an idea of what makes a great photograph. How many photographers are well-known to the general public? Very, very few. Sure, people are exposed to photos all the time, but the vast majority of it is purely commercial work. And for most, having a camera is not about making art, or making art in a particular medium with its own characteristics. So if they take a photo and it comes out looking like something they saw in a calendar or a magazine, they think, fine, that's good. So what if the photos people post to Flickr and facebook aren't up to the standards of Arbus or Adams; a lot of the work posted here isn't either.
Originally Posted by PKM-25
I think photography is thriving in the digital onslaught. (not as a profession, but as an art obsession or hobby) I will qualify that as I believe photography to include both digital and analog means.
I think photography as a profession is beat pretty much to the extent it will be beat. The beating will shift and progress to video shortly. It's a stratified system where hobbyists now use $1000 systems that produce 1080p high quality video and have access to nice software. Not long ago, hobby meant VHS recorders making inferior video edited in a further quality-losing-manner. Now, anyone can make video suitable for youtube or hulu or vimeo. Kids make video with ipod cameras for school classes and for fun. Consumers don't want three hours of lush Kubrick cinematography; they want a sugar/comedy fix on youtube a few minutes at a time, or a 3d gimmick remake with CGI. Network TV shows are the same old manufactured crap with new actors. Reality TV is beating a dead horse for the most part. Content producers and cable/dish companies are having constant pissing contests over rights and money at the expense of our wallets. It's ripe for upheaval from the bottom, and the tech and skills are present.
As for the Internet and photography, it's the conduit by which many people learn film photography or learn alt process or figure out how to meet together. It's also a way to share digital photos of course.... Film would be dead if the Internet were not available for ordering film & supplies since nobody local stocks things. Without the internet, there would be zero market for used camera equipment and it would be going in recycling bins instead of finding a new life somewhere in the world. I bought a grafmatic a couple months ago; without the Internet to show me how to use one, I would have ignored them completely. There's a ton of film photo stuff going from eastern europe to the US; a ton of stuff going from the US to the far east, it's quite a global marketplace because of the Internet.
I don't think film is bashed on the Internet. The latest and greatest is hyped, sometimes at film's expense, but the hype has been happening since before the Internet. I remember dropping my pop photo magazine subscription back in 1992-1993ish when I realized it was basically camera porn with no meaningful photography.
Thomas, I would say your girlfriend is dead right. Today I had a revelation moment, when walking through town, I stopped in front of a photographic shop window to view the numerous prints on show. Full rich colour, HDR images, perfect focus, infinite depth of field, super saturated images with layer masked skys to match. When I was young people would discuss if photography was art. Digital photography is now putting film photography in its rightful place as a pure art of physical capture and print. Have no doubts, we are the real artists of the original genre and future generations will view our work and say “how did they do that”.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
IMO, there's too much economic and newbie BS talk in photography. It seems all is a good subject, everything is important except photography itself.
I've been disgusted by digital, its workflow, its culture, its way of pushing you into a mainstream, its look, long ago.
I also matured. Now I print all my best shots (about 5,6,7 or 8 per 36mm roll and 3 or 4 per 120 roll) on 11x14 and about half of them on 16x20. All to archival standard. The purpose of it all is still uncleaf to me. Why am I going crazy about it all, I have no idea. A psychiatrist would say it's because I'm afraid of dying. Maybe it's true. I say it's because I love life so much I want to immortalize every scene that I found appealing.
Will photography die? Photography as we know it will die but image makin will never die.
I don't know what's my true inner purpose of needing to print so much other then absolutely having to finish what I started: clicking a film imperatively involves having to print it. But I am happy to know that my prints will outlive me and future generations will enjoy them. This alone beats any flash card filled with files. The horror!