By MICHAEL PERKINS
PHOTOGRAPHY IS THE LATEST THING.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS OBSOLETE.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS DEAD.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS JUST BEING BORN.
All these statements are true.
Art cannot hide from the world, nor can it sequester itself away from change. There cannot be one “final” or “permanent” way to create a painting, one lasting method for bringing forth a face from a block of marble, one eternal way to capture and shape light. It’s more than obvious that, like most arts, photography has been in a constant state of metamorphosis since its inception, something which should comfort those for whom things seem to be, at present, “moving too fast”. Comfort, however, is not in the offing for many of us.
The sense that nothing is “permanent” anymore in the making of pictures is especially keen in recent years, since the shift from film-based imaging to digital has been such a convulsive and comprehensive break with the past. But, even though we’ve been using film for over a hundred years, the kind of film we use has always been in transition. We feel a little less solid right now because the technical means for photography are changing on a much more fundamental level. And we’re just getting started.
Shooting and processing this image in the film era would have been the work of hours, maybe days. With an iPhone app, I have it within two minutes.
The explosion of the post-processing photo app, itself a product of the ongoing evolution of the telephone, is changing the terms of engagement for everyone who takes pictures. Everyone. Okay, you don’t have a smartphone and don’t want one. I get it. That doesn’t change the fact that the essential means for capturing and shaping an image is shifting into overdrive. More than ever before, anyone can take a picture…..anywhere, anytime, instantly, and under damn near any circumstances. The walls of experience, privilege, and access between pro and amateur are dissolving faster than Splenda in a non-fat latte. Techniques which used to be the exclusive domain of the learned, the elite, are now available to the peasantry. There are no more secrets. The Bastille has fallen.
Apps are leading all this, making any kind of effect, tint, re-focus, re-balance and re-do feasible for anyone. The tsunami of new images flooding into the internet on any given day is the output of people whose vision can now be acted upon, without exhaustive expense, without years of slaving in a newspaper bullpen, without decades of chemical-stained fingers and dingy diligence in darkrooms. If you don’t have a good eye for what makes a good picture, then that one factor can keep you from greatness. But access to tools is no longer, and can never again be, a disqualifier.
Apps are already raising the question of whether bulkier cameras with costly lenses are even needed, and the next step is for apps to answer that question with shortcuts that will, at the very least, render whole classes of cameras superfluous, and, eventually, remove all but the most basic functions of traditional lenses themselves. Custom-made “glass” is one of the remaining barriers to complete photographic democracy: it costs too much and requires too steep a learning curve for today’s ADD universe. It will have to go.
And here’s where you decide whether, in your own case, that’s a positive or negative thing. The bad news is, everything is changing. The good news is, everything is changing.
You pays your money and you takes your choice.
June 3, 2014 | Categories: Apps, Camera phones, Composition, Exposure, History, In-Camera, Post-processing | Tags: apps, Digital Media, IPhone, processing, Social Media, Technique | Leave a comment
By MICHAEL PERKINS
“MAKING PHOTOGRAPHS” IS ONLY HALF OF PHOTOGRAPHY. The other half consists of placing yourself in the oncoming path of that runaway truck Experience so that you can’t help getting run over, then trying to get the license plate of the truck to learn something from the crash. You need to keep placing your complacency and comfort in harm’s way in order to advance, to continue your ongoing search for better ways to see. Thus the role models or educational models you choose matter, and matter greatly.
Lately, much as I thrive on wisdom from the masters and elders of photography, I am relying more and more on creative energy and ideas from people who are just learning to take pictures. This may sound like I am taking driving lessons from toddlers instead of licensed instructors, but think about it a moment.
Yes, nothing teaches like experience….seasoned, life-tested experience. Righty right right. But art is about curiosity and fearlessness, and nothing says “open to possibility” like a 20-year-old hosting a podcast on what could happen “if you try this” with a camera. It is the fact that the young are unsure of how things will come out (the curiosity) which impels them to hurry up and try something to find out (the fearlessness). Moreover, if they were raised with only the digital world as a reference point, they are less intimidated by the prospect of failure, since they are basically shooting for free and their universe is one of infinite do-overs. There is no wrong photograph, unless it’s the one you just didn’t try for.
Best of all, photography, always the most democratic of arts, has just become insanely more so, by putting some kind of camera in literally everyone’s fist. There is no more exclusive men’s club entitlement to being a shooter. You just need the will. Ease of operation and distribution means no one can be excluded from the discussion, and this means a tidal wave of input from those just learning to love making pictures.
One joke going around the tech geek community in recent years involves an old lady who calls up Best Buy and frets, “I need to hook up my computer!”, to which the clerk replies, “That’s easy. Got a grandchild?”
Find yourself a path. Find yourself a world of influences and approaches for your photography. And, occasionally, find yourself a kid.
November 11, 2013 | Categories: Composition, Experimental, Exposure, P.O.V., Podcasts, Popular Culture | Tags: Arts, Digital Media, Experimental, IPhone, Lomography, Photography, Podcasts | 2 Comments