18 December 2013

The Guardian: “The death of photography: are camera phones destroying an artform?”

Why is digital lazy? It’s a scattergun approach. You snap away thinking, One of these shots will work, rather than concentrate on capturing the image.

McCabe used to take two rolls of 24 exposures on a typical assignment. Now I can shoot 1,000 pictures in one of these sessions on digital – and I give myself a massive editing problem as a result. I don’t think photography’s dead, it’s just become lazy. People are taking lots of pictures but nobody’s looking at them.

Stuart Jeffries

As someone who has lived through the transition from film to digital and reluctantly left film behind, I can relate to this point of view. I can shoot much more with a digital SLR now, without having to worry about changing the film roll or developing and digitizing them afterwards; on the other hand hundreds of photos means more time tagging them, adding quick notes and location and uploading them to Flickr, which is why I am still massively behind on sharing my latest photos. Of course, there are also major benefits to having a camera always with you, even if the quality is not necessarily top-notch:

Indeed, Knight reckons the democratising revolution catalysed by improved mobile phone cameras is as radical as what happened in the 1960s when fashion photographer David Bailey binned his tripod and started using a handheld camera. It gave him freedom and changed artistically what photography was. The same is true for me with the iPhone. For years I would shoot on an 8x10 camera, which wasn’t intended to be moved. Now I have freedom.

As for photography as an artform being replaced by quick snaps from Instagram… I don’t think anybody with a serious passion for photography takes this idea seriously. I know a couple photographers using Instagram, but just as a channel to reach fans more directly, while their main tools are still pro-level dedicated cameras.

In any case, established photographers don’t necessarily have to worry about the democratisation of their medium. I’ll survive in this profession because I have skills, says Olmos. I’m a storyteller in images; my compositions are better than most people’s. Just because you’ve got a microprocessor in your computer doesn’t make you a writer. And just because you’ve got an Instagram app on your phone you aren’t a great photographer.

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