Sunday morning and Susan and I decide to begin junking out the garage. This is a job we have both been dreading but it has to be done. For months now I have looked at my workbench in despair of ever being able to use it again. And the rest of the garage is not much better. I remember once we used to park a car in the garage. But, alas, those days are long gone.
All of the photos with this post are from my Samsung Galaxy 8. This one I took when I came upon these spring flowers without my camera. But I had my phone. And, actually, it takes an amazing picture for something so small. And you can make phone calls on it!
When facing such chores, which my attention deficient disordered brain finds boring in the extreme, I plug my ear buds into Spotify and listen to podcasts while I toil. There are several programs I follow, news analysis, history, technology and, of course, photography. This morning I got into photography and by chance listened to two programs about where cameras and their technology were going. The discussion followed similar analyses I have heard elsewhere about how the iPhone and similar devices had knocked the bottom out of camera sales and what role the sophisticated camera of the future would fulfill. I could not help hearing a sense of dread from the commentators who were obviously “big
camera” fans. Somehow all this new technology was a danger to photography.
There is no question that the marriage of the computer and the camera has allowed any one so inclined, and who is at the right place at the right time, to take phenomenal photographs. And if the pictures have defects, they are quickly corrected with software and presets. It is definitely a new world!
For many of us, “us” being those raised on advanced camera systems and who have an inherent love of the equipment and process of photography, the cell phone is unexplored territory. When faced with an outing to take pictures, I have not had the nerve yet to leave my heavy cumbersome wonderful cameras at home and go out with just my Samsung Galaxy. It seems that would be akin to going out without my trousers. Hard to contemplate.
I know that other worlds exists. I understand that this wave of new technology will change the business landscape dramatically. I realize that with this new world comes amazing convenience. I have been out and about doing my daily rounds and found a beautiful image I wanted to capture and my phone was the only camera I had. And I have been truly impressed with the images these devices will capture. But still …….. hmmmm ….. not comfy.
This is the typical image taken with the new technology. It is intended as a memory and to show others a wonderful party we attended. This was New Year’s Eve 2017 and that is me in the pointy hat! The cell phone is perfect for this application.
My podcasts this morning hinted at a question that I have been considering: what effect will all this technology have on the creation of photographic art? I have considered this for two days now and my conclusion is that this will have no effect whatsoever. I don’t think this flood of beautiful images on Facebook, Instagram, 500px, and elsewhere will change our concept or appreciation of art in photography one bit.
I say this because I think art is something born in the heart of the artist and not something created by a machine, no matter how pretty it may be. What happens to those millions of images that float past our vision each day? Where do they go? Are they art or not? Well, if we enjoy them and then dismiss them, if we don’t treasure and value them, if we don’t adorn our homes with them, then I have trouble seeing them as art.
Three years ago at a Christmas Party the Christmas Tree was particulalry pretty. Not realizing how dirty my cell phone lens was I took this picture wanting to create a “selfie” in the Christmas tree ornament. This image suggests ways that images can be manipulated with a cell phone to create an image.
Photography is an immense subject and there are many facets to it. We have to realise that the majority of people are not trying to be “photographers”. They are trying to preserve moments to remember and share with friends. They want pictures of the kids or parties they have been to or vacations they have enjoyed. For these, the majority of camera users, the iPhone is a boone, a blessing, a miracle. But these folk never wanted cameras in the first place. They just wanted pictures.
All of this is valid and reasonable. These are the majority and for them the iPhone is liberating. It is a true revolution.
However, not everyone is thrilled. For the large camera companies it has meant a valuable market has been decimated and their bottom lines have suffered accordingly. Fortunately for them, photography has other uses.
This flood of innovation will have little effect on record keeping, advertising or professional event photography. For these users the “big” camera is still a must. But that is dictated by the purposes of the photography and the demands place on it. A bride and groom are seldom satisfied with selfies. They want the best images that their event photographer can create.
But what of the “art” photographer. This is an amorphous group, some talented, some not, and most in between. But they all want more from their photography. For them an image is only the beginning, the raw material for the vision they have in their minds. I really believe that their image can come from any device be it an iPhone or tablet or DSLR.
I do not believe that the images from these devices are “art” until someone singles them out, works on them to bring out whatever beauty is within, and then displays them and induces in the viewer a desire to have, keep, show them in their own surroundings because they communicate a truth or a beauty to be treasured. In other words, these images to be “art” have to be acted upon by the artist in some meaningful way.
This image was taken at the Sylvester (New Year’s Eve) Ball at the Hoffburg Palace in Vienna in 2018. I had my Canon R with me but I took this picture on my Samsung Galaxy from our dinner table. The real innovation is in having a camera in your pocket always. Even I, a confirmed “big” camera user, cannot resist these wonderful little devices.
A beautiful sunset is just that; a beautiful sunset. They happen all the time whether anyone watches them or not. By snapping that image on a cell phone or on an EOS 1D DSLR does not convert them to “art”. All that act does is record the sunset. It does not matter how that record is created. The more expensive camera does not create better “art”. The art is created about six inches behind the camera regardless which kind of instrument lies between the subject and the artist.
When I set out to create a piece of my “art” I must first chose an image, sometimes more than one, from tens of thousands of images. Although I took care and exercised skill taking every one of them, they are not art. They are images. My image archive runs to hundreds of thousands. Of those I have chosen to create my “art” I have a few dozen.
I think that the photographer artist welcomes the onslaught of new equipment and software as the painter welcomes new innovations in paint, brushes and paper and canvas surfaces. It expands the tool kit with ever more options and that cannot be bad. The artists can ignore the new world or embrace it as they will. But it will not fundamentally change the “art”.
The tools have changed over the years but Rembrandt or da Vinci would recognize the process instantly. That has not changed. We use the same lighting techniques, we still worry about color palette, we fuss about backgrounds and depth of field. Perspective is still a concern. The art has not changed. The “new” allows us to do the “same old” with greater freedom for our vision.
No, the camera companies may be worried and may have to change their business models, but photography has nothing to fear. This new world is all good for the photographers among us.