YOUR PHONE AND PHOTOGRAPHY - 19 June 2012
Silo At Sunset - Kinsley, Kansas, File #1011588
I subscribe to a few photography oriented blogs and feeds. Recently, seemingly with the purchase of Instagram by Facebook and the dominance of the iPhone on photo sharing sites like Flikr, some people seem to think we've begun to see the end of photography. Seems like there's a dearth of imagination and creativity using what you have in your pocket and shooting what was previously done with an instamatic. They may say these phones are so terrible or they allow terrible things to be done to pictures that the state of photography is in serious decline. Hmmm, I was just starting to think all these people shooting and sharing their pictures was a good thing.
I've written previously on the subject of what's the best camera. That's the camera you have in your hand. No camera, no shot. You have a camera, whether phone, view camera, Nikon D4, any of these are perfect for the situation. That's because you're shooting and that's art in it's own respect.
Let's think about this a little. I mean, how can I say the camera in my hand is the "best camera" when I have an iPhone and I know the scene screams high end Nikon. I know because if you were shooting with your iPhone and knew you needed the high end Nikon, then you probably didn't have it at hand or else you'd be shooting with it. So, what's the problem?
A few years ago at the beginning of the digital revolution in photography I wrote a couple comments on posts by people wondering if digital had any legs. 10 years later, it's obvious digital has legs. Back then I anticipated the introduction of so many new photographers trying new and different things with their cameras because shooting was so easy. For the simple tasks of shooting, digital photography is leaps and bounds easier than the equivalent film camera. I wrote those comments well before things like worthwhile cameras in your phone were a possibility. Now that the phone is so good, you can't miss compared to what was available just a few short years ago. It's better now in terms of the quality of equipment I have in my pocket.
Here's the thing. Back in the day, if you looked at photography circles you would've found relatively well heeled participants. Many of them older or even retired. I remember when I was a shooter in High School, I was "that kid". That kid with the camera. I went everywhere with that thing and shot lots and lots. Of course, lots of my images became part of our yearbooks. There weren't many "that kids" running around. I stuck out by having my camera in my hand.
I bet if you look at what yearbook's are using for their images nowadays, you'll find less of them shot by "that kid". You'll find more shot by kids with their phones. And, they made those shots simply through the normal course of a day. No special shooting required. No special access given to "that kid". There are simply so many more people out there collecting and making images with what they have in their pockets.
I think that's great. How can it not be great. Just the increased opportunity for people to discover photography by first using their phone, that's got to be great. The shear number of good images is going to increase with all these new people. Of course, there's a tremendous challenge of wading through the chaff to get to those great images. But, what's not fun about looking at photos to find that diamond in the rough?
Those saying the end of photography has begun will likely concede more shooters is probably not a bad thing. But, they'll clutch their Leica and Zeiss lenses saying all those highly filtered images being made by those funky apps on phones is certainly killing photography. What happened to the success of subtle? They'll say all this will do is dumb down the overall quality of photography by people overusing the latest and greatest most popular filters that have little to nothing to do with the images.
Sure, there might be a good argument there. But, I'll say "look, they're practicing their creative sides". To me these filters allow an opportunity for people to explore their inner visions and creativity. Maybe their connections to their inner visions and creativity isn't so strong. That doesn't mean they can't explore it using the tools at their finger-tips. It also doesn't mean people that stay with their photography won't get better over time. Everyone does, you know, get better.
In the pre-digital age, photographs had their own weeding out process simply by the effort to make the images into prints. The costs alone were prohibitive causing people like me to be very judicious about making prints. I rarely if ever made large prints because of the cost. As a result, the number of people exposed to my images were few and far between. Now, this weeding out process wasn't really about the quality of the image. It was more about the cost and exposure of the image. Nowadays, with the ease of first producing then publishing images, quality photographs are so much more available. I can see high quality images simply by getting onto my computer and clicking a few keys. To do the same before I needed to get to a studio, museum, or buy a book. What's not easier now?
Here's the most important thing with the digital revolution. I've been amazed by photographers that didn't have the right camera, right school, the right background to impress so. Isn't that wonderful? Isn't it much better to have opportunity ring free than to have it artificially constrained? I think it's better.
The challenge for us "old fart" photographers is to adapt to the new paradigm. The new being the tremendous variation and the newness of this process. It's not bad. Far from it. It's just different. And, with time it'll get better either by the old farts adjusting to how they enjoy photographs in the new paradigm. Or, by everyone simply being exposed to more and more photography all the time. Welcome to the revolution, the photography revolution.