Some random thoughts.


So what has been the impact of digital technology on the art and / or craft of photography? Well it can be argued that it's certainly democratised it. Everybody it seems carries a camera of some sort and takes pictures all the time. Everybody also expects instant feedback, instant publishing, instant success. We've seen the rise of the high expectation culture and the 'if it's rubbish it's not my fault' culture. True there have always been photographic charlatans who have made a career from passing off ineptitude as art. With digital we've just got more of them these days.

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In the days of Cartier-Bresson a really good camera was a much higher % of average earnings than it is now. So photographers tended to come from families with pretty good incomes. There were exceptions of course, but photography, at least at it's highest levels, was expensive to get into and when a working class David Bailey and others burst upon the scene in the 1960's they were the exceptions rather than the rule. And since then the notion of becoming a photographer  as a career path has got easier. Add in the fact that creating photographs has got also simpler and significantly cheaper and it's not hard to see that the situation as of now is different to what it was. 

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Photography and being a photographer is no special thing any more. Everybody does it. Everybody also has an instant audience, instant access to web publishing. Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblir etc. etc. Images are everywhere, A constant uploading of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly is going on and on and on and in the time it's taken for you to read down to here in this post we can only imagine how many more tens of 1000's of images have been added to the global reservoir of imagery that shows us the world around us and the people and places in it, in more depth and detail than we could ever have possibly imagined and of course than we probably need or want.

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These days everything is documented, from the banal and the commonplace to the evil and perverted and everything else in between. And it's just slung out there, often with no thought about selection, editing and self-assessment and criticism. And with that has emerged the exaggeration of the 'me' culture. The ghastly 'selfie' and the belief that promoting and publicising your unremarkable life choices and activities is somehow a good and useful thing have emerged, as has the idea that art doesn't require the old-fashioned notions of talent, inspiration, skill and the ability to learn any more. To paraphrase - 'Art is something that is created by someone who calls themselves themselves an artist. An artist is someone who creates what that creator calls art.' Andy Warhol has a lot to answer for!!

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The phrase I hate most about photography is the oft repeated 'The best camera you have is the one you have with you' I actually wince every time I read that. Because it's become a  manifesto for mediocrity and a justification for the complete pile of crap that insults our eyes and clogs up the internet with self-absorbed tedium that tries it's best to demolish any notion of quality. It gives rise to a belief that a small-sensored, artefact riddled, instagram degraded mobile phone image is somehow worthy of our attention as a work of art or at least something we might consider as such. The belief that the pursuit of aesthetic and technical excellence is something we should aspire to has gone out of the window and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the constant bleatings on photographic forums that camera X or Y is somehow flawed because it actually requires it's owner to make an effort, learn something about how to create images and god forbid, exercise their brain.

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Like convenience food, we now have convenience cameras. Ones that require no thought, no preparation, no necessity to learn the craft. Just the ability to press a button. It's called idiot-proof. Wrong name unfortunately, the idiot creation button would be a more appropriate name. Firstly the assumption that someone who can master the complexities of the modern smartphone and tablet can't work out how to use a camera shows a level of ignorance on the part of camera manufacturers that can only be described as unbelievable. Is it any wonder that people don't buy cheap point and shoot compacts any more. To your average smartphone user they probably hold as much mystery as a childs spinning top. Maybe if they were presented with a camera that was deliberately complicated those manufacturers might sell a few more. Secondly, how insulting is the idea that people who manage to navigate their way through the complexities of life, work for a living, raise families and fill in a tax form (the real tough challenge!), have to have a camera that basically says 'Leave your brain at home and just press the big button'. 

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There is a certain catergory of photographer I really dislike. Those who would like to be regarded as some kind of 'expert' or 'internet pundit' whose words people hang on to like a snake in a life raft. And of course hiding behind your nom-de-net you can pretend to be who you want. The only skill you need is the ability to shout louder than anybody else.

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