Thursday, September 20, 2007

There was a discussion program the other evening at the APG (Atlanta Photographic Group):

Is There Anything Left To Learn About Photography?
During the past decade photography has undergone a profound transformation. Technology has made it possible even for beginners to make prints that are ready for the gallery walls. Some think photography is so easy that anyone can do it. Others think it isn't really photography any more. But if photography is so easy to do, why are there still so many bad photographs being made? What's missing from this picture? Join Susan Todd-Raque and Chip Simone at the next /Speaking of Photography/ when we discuss the burning question: What is left to learn about photography, and what is the best way to learn it?

I wish I could have been there, but since I couldn't, that won't keep me from making public my thoughts on the matter. So....seems to me the statement above sorta' answers its own question. It starts with a false assumption: "photography" has NOT undergone a profound transformation, the technical mechanics have undergone a profound transformation. The cameras I've been using for the past decade are essentially no different from those I used in the previous decade. Hell, cameras I use have undergone little change since all this started. If I had to pin down one "profound" change in all the history of cameras, it would be the 1888 patent of the first roll film camera. That allow us to go from a tripod mounted recording device to a hand-held recording device. Since that time we've only seen a progression of improvements. Everyone is trying to say that digital is destroying photography, but seems to me that this fancy new 40D Canon I just bought is essentially the same machine as the first SLR I bought while in the Navy almost 50 years ago. Still has a flappin' mirror, a shutter, a prism viewfinder, a lens that sets to the same f/stops I've always used. Yes, I now the light I allow to enter my lens is recorded on a energized silicone surface rather than light energized silver particles. So what? Sure the mechanics of the camera have been vastly improved beyond anything I could have imagined 50 years ago when I purchased my first camera -- an Argus C-3. But do I make better images now that I have the latest-greatest camera? No, I make better images now because I've.....I'm not sure I know. What I do know is it is not because of the equipment I use, some of which is 50 years old, BTW. And I know people (note I did not call them "photographers") who take no better pictures now than they did 50 years ago even though they have the latest-greatest. But the point is, making meaningful images never has been easy and is not now any easier because of blessed, beautiful, highly functional, modern, mechanical marvels. Come on, guys, we've been through this hundreds of times -- it ain't the camera, it's the brain behind the camera. What's left to learn about photography? Funny thing about the human race: you're born and you die. We have limited time here. What really happens is that you get replaced, and those replacements don't have any more clues about making images than you did when you first started. Yes, those newbies face a far more visually complex world than we did, but like we did, they can call on the experience of those whom we replaced, and on our experiences. What's new to be learned is what they, in their time can bring to the medium, just as we did in our era. The electro-mechanical recording devices have little to do with it. If it did, then all that's left to do is turn the chimps loose with new Nikon or Canon dSLR's while you and I go grab a brewski and watch the baseball game.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Right on. Couldn't be better said.

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