The future of Photography

There is an interesting article by Kirk Tuck at the above link. It's a great read and before reading the following, I suggest you read that first.


The problem with the future is it's just that. It hasn't happened yet. Predictions tend to go seriously awry when they encounter reality. In my lifetime I have read science fiction descriptions of the future saying that by now we should all be wearing very silly clothing, eating food that resembled Lego and holidaying on one of the moons of Jupiter. Whereas in actual fact if somebody arrived here in a time machine from the 1950's they wouldn't feel that out of place, apart from wondering why people were constantly looking at and talking into those strange little boxes.

So predictions tend to be......difficult. Just look at your average weather forecast. Now Kirk is right when he profiles serious enthusiast photographers with attitude as being over 50 and predominantly male. So nothing new about that then. The argument being that these are the people who are being targeted by OM-D's and Fuji X-Pro 1's and that eventually when we (yes I'm one too) 'move on' new generations will be looking for something different. Well yes, but we aren't going to be 'moving on' anytime soon. I'm a 'baby boomer', 'child of the sixties' however you want to describe those of us that form 1/3 of the population of Western Europe, the UK and the US. The ones with all the money. The ones who actually still get a pension, made a mint from the housing boom, who eat healthily, take plenty of exercise and have definitely decided to make the most of their 'mature years', disposable income and sense of entitlement. That same attitude we have cultivated ever since Jim Morrison gave us the phrase that we have lived by 'We want the world and we want it now!' In 2013 make that 'We want the world and we wanted it then, want it now and in perpetuity!'

My serious (?) point is that I don't think this market isn't going away any time soon. And we will still be serious consumers of all things photographic, retro or not, for a lot of years to come. Because what else are we going to take on our endless cruises and trips to Machu Picchu, other than the old-school styled picture taking machines we coveted ever since we saw the success David Bailey had with the opposite sex? And believe it or not, people over 50 do actually understand how to turn on a computer, send a text, set up a Facebook page and indulge in the same mindless nonsense that the under 50's do. In fact since we can afford the better laptops, smartphones and actually have something interesting to post on our Facebook page (endless cruises, trips to Machu Picchu etc.) prepare for the 'graying of social media' as well. 

I spend a lot of time in some of the UK's premier tourist destinations, with visitors from all over the world. Two things spring to mind from what I see when people take pictures. Firstly, just as many people my age take pictures with their phones as the 'younger generation' and secondly I'm pleased to report that I see many young women, mainly from the far east, taking photo's 'seriously' and all using DSLR's or high-end mirrorless cameras. Not entirely representative of course, but I'm talking about the people who can actually afford to travel halfway across the world for a holiday.

The other important thing to consider is that extrapolating from now to the future is a dangerous thing. Social Media is all pervasive it seems, but what is going to be the eventual fallout from the 'Snowden leaks'? Is it not inconceivable that people get really fed up by being 'monitored' by their governments to see if they are doing anything unusual or unpredictable. And will we all finally get totally pissed off of being seen by these huge media and technology companies as nothing more than consumers? How much longer can we tolerate searching for something on Google only to be bombarded by advertising, emails, junk mail and phone calls attempting to sell us what we searched for? Fashion is notoriously fickle (and unusual and unpredictable) and the movers and shakers amongst us may decide it is actually uber cool to reintroduce some notion of mystery and privacy into our lives.

We also haven't had anything resembling a 'Youth revolution' for a while now. Hippies and Punk Rockers are the stuff of memory and it's about time something similar started to spread. Surely the aforementioned 'younger generation' isn't going to put up with the fact that their elders and betters are probably less conventional, have had more sex and taken more drugs than they have. (And of course still have the money to indulge themselves) There was a hilarious article on the BBC website recently that attributed the reduction of crime and social unrest to the fact that everybody under 30 was now on Facebook, Twitter and the like 24/7. Are young people really that dull?

So lets go back the original argument. That the market for photographic gear that depends on gray haired blokes (never heard of hair dye?) is passing and the new generation(s) want something smaller, simpler and more mobile than a DSLR or a retro styled mirrorless. Something like a Box Brownie or a Kodak Instamatic perhaps? You see we've had that already. We did snapshot as art form years ago and we had sharing - it was called a slide show or 'Have I shown you my holiday pictures.' That was before there was a 'hobbyist', an 'enthusiast photographer' or those strange beings that wear army surplus combat fatigues and carry lenses the size of a truck in an even bigger truck. 

Now I have absolutely no idea what the future of photography and / or cameras is. Not a clue. And to be honest I don't really care either. It will either evolve or it won't. What it won't do is change dramatically in the near future. Because that's not how change happens. Change happens very slowly, almost imperceptibly and it's only when you look back with hindsight many years later that you get some idea as to why and how it happened. Plus where's the fun in predicting the future? If you get it right, where's the buzz in that and if you get it wrong it's just another of life's little disappointments. 

But if I was to be drawn into something that may change the way we think, live and most importantly of all, shop, then my money's on the 'Steam Punks'. And of course people with talent will always have talent, and any kind of 'new photography' will be what it's always been, a reworking of 'old photography' since pretty much every technique you've ever seen and every subject had been done by 1905. 

And it's not the 'graying of traditional photography' (whatever that is) that we should be concerned about, it's the 'graying of the soul' and the decline into mediocrity that we should be striving to avoid. And dullness, lack of ambition and the absence of art, craft and imagination is the preserve of no one particular age group, but the end product of technology and global communication. This, rather than fulfilling it's promise of innovation and creativity, mostly stifles our desire for experimentation and sends us back into the coma that passes for artistic expression these days. Because that's exactly where the politicians and commercial multi-nationals, who really run the world, want us to be.

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