No – not a new brand of photography – just a simple question – “Where is photography going? What sparked these random thoughts off was a recent article in that excellent UK journal “Black and White Photography”. The topic being covered was a “new” aspect of the noble art, photography with an i-phone. I became aware that now we can get all sorts of apps. to make our phone so much more sophisticated as a picture-taking instrument. When the cell-phone with camera facility came in some years ago it was hailed as the tool of everyone desirous of making pictures. No cost, since you had paid for a phone facility already, and able to be used by everyone regardless of skills. And after a couple of years of the development process good pictures could be achieved at the touch of a button. No bells and whistles. Now that is all changing.
The interesting thing is that this is the third time at least that photography has gone through the same sort of process. A few years ago photographers were going through a reaction to automated sophisticated cameras which produced a perfect picture with the minimum of effort. The challenge they said, had gone. Two answers emerged. One was the move back to the sort of camera so many started on about the age of six or eight. The Diana camera and others of the same ilk were sought in attics, cupboards, junk shops. The slightly fuzzy image, getting more so toward the edges, became the last word in “arty photography”. But before we knew where we were cameras were being manufactured and sold to produce the new image. Needless to say a few dollars would no longer meet the specifications.
Another attempt to get away from the perfect image was the pinhole camera. Now a pinhole camera was photography at its most basic – such as a shoebox with insulation tape around the lid to keep out the light’ a sheet of film at one end and a (literally) pinhole at the other. All producing interesting unpredictable effects, and putting the fun back into photography. But what happened? The same result – bye-bye shoebox and now you could buy a sophisticated manufactured item with a lens. Now surely the lens has no role in true pinhole photography?
So we have interesting opposing forces at work. Sophisticated technology producing perfection which becomes boring/undemanding, a move towards simplicity followed by “commercialism” bringing the sophistication back. And I am not blaming “commercialism”- manufacturers would not introduce the new lines if they did not believe we would fall for them. Has our affluent society produced a race of people with two opposing aspects – a desire for simplicity overcome by a desire for the latest, the “best”, the easiest?
What will our next answer to boring perfection be? Does this year’s model DSLR really take a “better” picture than last year’s? How do we define a “better”picture? Perhaps we should be limiting ourselves to being better photographers – I know I need to do that. Perhaps in five or ten years someone will invent “film”.