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A view to the future November 18, 2008

Posted by eyegillian in change, creativity, learn, life, technology.
Tags: , , , , ,
6 comments

picwomencameraCameras capture time. Whether film or digital, still or movie, they are recording the profound or insignificant moments of our lives.

As I recognize how much I feel at home behind the viewfinder, and begin to gain a sense of the stillness at the centre of each photo, I am also seeing how — even as I watch — the way I think of photography is slipping into the stream of time. Photography, like the printing industry it is still mostly dependent on, is becoming outdated and antiquated.

There have been so many changes in the history of photography, from calotypes and Daguerreotype to magic lanterns, from the first mass-produced box cameras to the sophisticated computers with glass and mirrors we are used to seeing today. Now it is commonplace for people to take photos with their cellphones, and shoot videos with their digital cameras.

Of course, these days you can also buy a miniature camera no bigger than a thumbnail if you’re in the spy business, or if you want to snap the martians at play and don’t want to spend two years and a few million getting to Mars, you might be able to afford a monster-sized 1700 mm (5-1/2 foot) lens for your camera instead.

But I’m trying to simplify my life. I’m fascinated by convergence, by the iphone approach which incorporates music, phone, camera, organizers, becoming an electronic catch-all for the stuff you used to keep at the bottom of your purse or wallet or desk drawer. My cellphone can take photos (I’ve used it twice) and play music (I haven’t tried that function at all) as well as store task lists, phone numbers, and I’m sure it has many other bells and whistles I haven’t bothered to explore. But the fact is, I want to use it as a phone. Period.

browniecameraI have the same relationship with my camera. I use it to take pictures. I’m glad it’s digital, so I can see the images right away, and don’t have to pay for film and processing. But many cameras now are designed to do so much more than take pictures. Even the new high-end cameras are beginning to feature high-definition video capability, along with all the other must-have doohickeys. How many functions does your camera have? How many do you use?

I don’t want to be a luddite about this, but I’m afraid that what I see as the point of photography is getting lost in the race for bigger and better equipment, in the competition for the electronic-savvy consumers who want a camera that’s fully-loaded, whether or not they possess the will and skill to master it.

I’m not a camera purist. I don’t think that you have to use a square-format view camera and shoot in black-and-white (and process it in your own darkroom) in order to be considered a serious photographer. But I do want to draw a line between photography and videography, between single eloquent images and multi-frame movies. For me, photography is about stopping and seeing, about observing and contemplating a moment in time. I’m talking about still photography, plain old-fashioned pictures. Come to think of it, I prefer plain potato chips, too.doo-lough-ireland

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Related links:
Geist Magazine: “My Father’s Hands”
New York Magazine: “You must be streaming”
Jacki Schklar: “Video vs Still Images”
Technology Review: “Crossover Camera”

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