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Author Topic: Is photography, today, still photography?  (Read 5759 times)

Rob C

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Is photography, today, still photography?
« on: August 12, 2018, 10:17:50 am »

"I suppose it's an example of the images I would never have made on film. Digital allows the luxury of trying stuff out without wasting money in the process. Not the kind of thing I'd probably have printed up either, were my printer still able to print anything - but certainly interesting and entertaining enough for me to spend some time figuring out where it might go. That's a definite plus for digital photography, and perhaps an illustration of how it can take us to different stations not on the film circuit. Guess it takes time to work out the new options available in photography."

I posted the above in Lula, recently, and it got me thinking.

Could it be that those of us with a strong hankering for film, or perhaps with the memory of it, are not really making a realistic comparison between the two media, film and digital, but are, rather, forcing our minds into thinking unnecessarily of them as competing fighters in some imaginary battle of wits?

I come from a photographic background that was film for the entirety of my career. As such, digital arrived as a bit of a negative influence, causing a lot of harm to the world that I knew, in which I had felt fairly comfortable. Suddenly, that world became flooded - to the point of drowning - with images of all sorts, both good as bad, with the added menace of them being offered in the marketplace as alternatives to those produced through a degree of learning, experience and understanding of what made the fiscal clock keep running. The investment quotient was removed from, especially, the world of stock photography, and the perceived value of going anywhere with the objective of producing a set of professionally created photographs turned into a nonsense: the rank amateur armed with his digital camera could eventually arrive at the right exposure and, during his holiday, shoot a zillion shots for free, and at least one should be good enough to merit a sale via some library. It's what machine guns do in warfare. So immediately, the sense of digital, the way it was appreciated, was that it had become an existential threat.

That continued for quite some time, and the insidious effect of a vast supply of cheap imagery in one sphere of photography led to a gradually accelerating decline in perceived value in pretty much all genres of professional photographic work, with the inevitable result of falling revenue and much longer working hours spent producing the thing, the somewhat intangible thing finally delivered to the client.

Once set in motion, this inevitably carried on to the point where it reached its nadir or, as some might see it, the realistic, modern level of the monetary value of photography today. Most professionals have now long embraced digital, and except perhaps for some "art" photographers, that's their future, as much as it is their present.

So where is photography today, for those of us not doing it for the money?

I think that, in general, it has become a very different beast, with its prime objective no longer that little - or large - piece of photographic paper bearing testimony to the pleasure or expression of artistic appreciation a moment once gave, a feeling strong enough to make us knowingly expend time, effort and money in pursuit of it; I think it has become another creature altogether, one far more light, that seeks only to be remembered for five seconds at best.

Having written that is not to preclude those who simply use the medium as they did or would have done with film, from just going on as before, creating pictures that they love and enjoy, regardless of medium.

What has altered, though, is that for both kinds of photographer, the opportunity for experimentation is far greater than ever it was. And I think that's the crucial aspect: one should learn to forget about the innate characteristics of film grain and so forth, and just use the digital route for what it offers instead, which is low cost, unlimited opportunity to mess about, and within a different photographic experience altogether. It's in the constant comparison of one medium with the other that the older photographer might find continuing frustration.

The musical analogy with score and the interpretation of it has never been more relevant than today, where our chances of coming up with a pleasing, personal take on something is far higher than it was before the advent of digital. Instead of wasting expensive sheets of paper, test strips notwithstanding, we can today sit on our collective ass, look at a screen and alter, adapt, add, subract and lie through our visual teeth until we reach the point where we feel we may have accomplished something worth showing.

Unfortunately though, none of this alters the fact that we will always need to have somethig inside us that we can express visually. If that's not there, we are left as voiceless as ever we were.

So yes, I think photograhy is now something else, and that its "drawing with light" sentiment is of the past, more drawing been done in the computer than in any camera.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 10:21:12 am by Rob C »
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KLaban

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2018, 10:57:54 am »

...Having written that is not to preclude those who simply use the medium as they did or would have done with film, from just going on as before, creating pictures that they love and enjoy, regardless of medium...

Pretty much sums up my approach to personal work.

What digital capture does offer is the possibility and ease of post capture intervention which is something I admit to doing when needed but preferably with as light a touch as possible.

As a former illustrator I'm not interested in becoming an illustrator with a camera.
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John McDermott

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2018, 11:37:28 am »

Although you may be "right", this is the classical lament of an industry, a field of endeavor this has been eclipsed by the forward motion of history. The same complaints were voiced by stable owners upon the advent of the horseless buggy!
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John E. McDermott

Peter McLennan

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2018, 12:44:17 pm »

Although you may be "right", this is the classical lament of an industry, a field of endeavor this has been eclipsed by the forward motion of history. The same complaints were voiced by stable owners upon the advent of the horseless buggy!

Precisely, John.  The soldiers guarding the keys to the kingdom have been disarmed by digital technologies in many industries besides ours.  The boys in the computer rooms, for example, no longer control access. Everyone has several computers. Similarly, music has moved from the corporate-controlled recording studio to the renovated garage; from a thousands-an-hour elitist enterprise to a single person with a laptop.

But none have been more directly or precipitously affected than photographers.  Cinematographers (and especially camera operators) once held great sway on-set. Their word was law, for the crew was largely ignorant of the camera department's day-to-day responsibilities. Nobody but the operator saw what was actually being recorded. Now, monitors are everywhere on the set and everyone can see exactly what's going on.  Now, they're just another crew member; they've lost status, control and power.

And that's a good thing.  Film making is now better, cheaper and more creative than ever before, due in great part not to the loss of the closely-held power of the photographers, but to the sharing of it.
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Rob C

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2018, 01:13:09 pm »

Precisely, John.  The soldiers guarding the keys to the kingdom have been disarmed by digital technologies in many industries besides ours.  The boys in the computer rooms, for example, no longer control access. Everyone has several computers. Similarly, music has moved from the corporate-controlled recording studio to the renovated garage; from a thousands-an-hour elitist enterprise to a single person with a laptop.

But none have been more directly or precipitously affected than photographers.  Cinematographers (and especially camera operators) once held great sway on-set. Their word was law, for the crew was largely ignorant of the camera department's day-to-day responsibilities. Nobody but the operator saw what was actually being recorded. Now, monitors are everywhere on the set and everyone can see exactly what's going on.  Now, they're just another crew member; they've lost status, control and power.

And that's a good thing.  Film making is now better, cheaper and more creative than ever before, due in great part not to the loss of the closely-held power of the photographers, but to the sharing of it.


That, Peter, is one of the most broad assumptions I have come across of late!

I won't even start to contradict you - it's too big a subject, and the evidence to contradict you is right there on the screen, replete with bangs, flashes, digital tricks and lost narratives! Hell, the most memorable line today is still "I'll be back!" which has got to tell you something about how far we have advanced.

Rob C

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2018, 01:15:52 pm »

Although you may be "right", this is the classical lament of an industry, a field of endeavor this has been eclipsed by the forward motion of history. The same complaints were voiced by stable owners upon the advent of the horseless buggy!

Stable owners make more money today than ever they did.

32BT

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2018, 01:40:16 pm »

Although you may be "right", this is the classical lament of an industry, a field of endeavor this has been eclipsed by the forward motion of history. The same complaints were voiced by stable owners upon the advent of the horseless buggy!

No, i think his essay was about moving beyond that: only if you stick to the comparisson between the old cariage and the buggy, does one stay frustrated with the buggy. Once you accept the buggy for what it offers, you can move beyond the frustrations.
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Alan Klein

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2018, 02:40:14 pm »

I shoot medium format film when I want to slow down and get my landscapes with a lot of time to think about what I;m shooting.,  I like the process, the separate light meter, the loading of the film, the waiting for it to return from the processors.  I used to print more but there's no room on the wall.  I scan them and put some on my flickr page. 

Recently, my photo club printed 8 digital pictures from various members who entered pictures in a contest.  They were mounted to be displayed on the 55+ community's clubhouse wall, a little bit of a kick.

When I travel I shoot digital and create video slide shows with music, narration, credits etc to play on my 75" UHDTV.  Before digital, I would make photo albums of the prints.  But having shows on TV's are better. 

I don;t see competition between digital and film.  It's like saying a pick up truck is better than a sedan.

RSL

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2018, 03:31:46 pm »

Unfortunately though, none of this alters the fact that we will always need to have somethig inside us that we can express visually. If that's not there, we are left as voiceless as ever we were.

Exactly! And that's the real problem. Always has been. Doesn't matter whether the thing in your hand is a camera or a brush. The thing in your hand is useless unless there's a thing in your brain.

Farmer

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2018, 03:35:51 pm »

Exactly! And that's the real problem. Always has been. Doesn't matter whether the thing in your hand is a camera or a brush. The thing in your hand is useless unless there's a thing in your brain.

Indeed.  Now is no different to before.  Photography is still photography.
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Phil Brown

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2018, 04:36:33 pm »

"...thing in your hand is useless unless there's a thing in your brain." quote attribute, Russ.

that thing emanating gloriously from the momentary interconnections and vapors of flood tides across a long and growing longer life of "seeing"/"tuned awareness of ones current point on the curve".

I love this thought Russ~
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Rob C

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2018, 04:44:18 pm »

Indeed.  Now is no different to before.  Photography is still photography.


Is it really the same animal?

For some it can be, I still treat the shooting as if with a film camera, but that's just mechanics: after that, my new interest has taken me somewhere else that film could not, and never even made me think about going to visit.

As I went to pains to explain, digital has changed the options and the parameters beyond casual recognition; the limits of making a darkroom print have been left behind and, for me, no longer exist. The essence, the point of my pictures now is to make them other than the fairly stark, literal reality that film and its associated processes would offer me. I speak as an accomplished printer of many years of professional print production; darkrooms never held fears for me, as an amateur because I was unaware of how little I knew, and much later, because I did know what I was required to know. However, today's computer alternative is totally different - or, put another way, it takes pictures to conclusions that a darkroom would not.

I stress again: it's not a matter of superiority of one medium over another, but of different possibilities, possibilities so different as to make me conclude that the parting of the ways was quite some time ago, probably quite some time before I became so aware of it having happened to me.

That's one advantage of running a fairly large website that serves as general storage, rather than a gallery of best shots: I can track the progress/change in what I find interesting to do for myself, with no editing concessions built-in for commercial purposes long gone. From the inception of my Glimpsed Parallels series, the contributions to the original Biscuit Tin set have pretty much ceased. The idiom no longer matters to me. The pictures in the latter series could have been made on film as much as on digital, insofar as the final result goes. I appear to have gone somewhere else, somewhere I could not have gone with film photography.

So there we are - for me at least, this is a very different world of image-making.

Rob C

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2018, 04:51:25 pm »

No, i think his essay was about moving beyond that: only if you stick to the comparisson between the old cariage and the buggy, does one stay frustrated with the buggy. Once you accept the buggy for what it offers, you can move beyond the frustrations.

I never for a moment imagined you would not understand. My faith was rewarded.

:-)

Rob

Telecaster

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2018, 05:12:38 pm »

I've never photographed with the intent of creating a "body of work," or even with all that much concern about what to do with photos after taking 'em, so electronic cameras haven't changed my ways of doing things much. One difference is that I no longer scan film…instead I re-photograph it. Otherwise most of my snapping is driven by the desire to observe & see more closely & clearly. Photographs are a result of this but not really the purpose. The rest, and a minor part, is about how cameras & lenses see the world differently than eyes. Here the photos are more central.

-Dave-
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KLaban

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2018, 05:41:54 pm »

...Unfortunately though, none of this alters the fact that we will always need to have something inside us that we can express visually. If that's not there, we are left as voiceless as ever we were...

...The thing in your hand is useless unless there's a thing in your brain...

Yes.

These gems apply whatever the medium.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 05:46:57 pm by KLaban »
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2018, 07:59:13 pm »

Yes.

These gems apply whatever the medium.
+1.
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elliot_n

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2018, 08:12:39 pm »


Unfortunately though, none of this alters the fact that we will always need to have somethig inside us that we can express visually.

I see it more as letting the outside in, rather than the inside out.
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FranciscoDisilvestro

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2018, 10:19:16 pm »

It is the evolution of the medium, wheter we liked or not.

I see the big changes mainly in two areas

From the business point of view: The technology has lowered the entry barriers substantially, both in photography and cinematography. In all industries were this has happened, what was in the past a market dominated by a few players who could overcome the barries and who played scarcity to increase prices at their will, it is now a market with exceess players and excess supply, almost like a commodity, where high efficiency and low costs are the rule (there is an expected quality level in the market that you either have or not, and many players have it).

It is actually very difficult to change this mainset and many of the old players could not adapt and dissapeared.

The value proposition of the photographer has to change. It is not enough to have the equipment or skills now since those are accessible to many (a large number of photographers turned their business into education by conducting workshops or publishing tutorials, transferring to a large audience the knowledge that was a strategic differentiation in the past). It is more important to think in how to add value to your clients in a way that your competitors cannot rather than just rely on your experience and showing off expensive equipment.

The other main change is that current tools have blurred the frontiers that existed between different types of image making activities (i.e photography & illustration). Besides this overlap, which some may consider a downside, a lot of new possibilities appeared in the market, that were unthinkable just a few years ago.

Film and vinyl records will not become mainstream again, people will not leave aeroplanes and return to trains nor leave cars to ride horses. Consumers will not pay more just because you use more expensive equipment. Get over it, adapt or die.

KLaban

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2018, 02:53:25 am »

It is the evolution of the medium, wheter we liked or not.

I see the big changes mainly in two areas

From the business point of view: The technology has lowered the entry barriers substantially, both in photography and cinematography. In all industries were this has happened, what was in the past a market dominated by a few players who could overcome the barries and who played scarcity to increase prices at their will, it is now a market with exceess players and excess supply, almost like a commodity, where high efficiency and low costs are the rule (there is an expected quality level in the market that you either have or not, and many players have it).

It is actually very difficult to change this mainset and many of the old players could not adapt and dissapeared.

The value proposition of the photographer has to change. It is not enough to have the equipment or skills now since those are accessible to many (a large number of photographers turned their business into education by conducting workshops or publishing tutorials, transferring to a large audience the knowledge that was a strategic differentiation in the past). It is more important to think in how to add value to your clients in a way that your competitors cannot rather than just rely on your experience and showing off expensive equipment.

The other main change is that current tools have blurred the frontiers that existed between different types of image making activities (i.e photography & illustration). Besides this overlap, which some may consider a downside, a lot of new possibilities appeared in the market, that were unthinkable just a few years ago.

Film and vinyl records will not become mainstream again, people will not leave aeroplanes and return to trains nor leave cars to ride horses. Consumers will not pay more just because you use more expensive equipment. Get over it, adapt or die.

I agree with everything you've said, but I'm not sure you answered Rob's question.

Hell, I'm not sure I answered Rob's question.
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KLaban

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Re: Is photography, today, still photography?
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2018, 03:10:17 am »

Pretty much sums up my approach to personal work.

What digital capture does offer is the possibility and ease of post capture intervention which is something I admit to doing when needed but preferably with as light a touch as possible.

As a former illustrator I'm not interested in becoming an illustrator with a camera.

Actually, in a roundabout way, perhaps I did.

;-)
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