After Photography

People once said, “Digital sucks, I’m sticking with film.” People once said, “I’ll create a library of images (stock? almost forgot it existed…), retire young and live off my royalties.” People once said, “The sky (cloud?) is falling.” People (me) have said, “This is the most interesting time in history to be a photographer.” It’s a known fact that more photographs are being used, licensed, sold today than ever before in history. Some photographers are thriving, growing, and emerging. Others are dying.

All these messages and more can make it difficult, exciting, or confusing, or worse–all three at the same time–to formulate opinions on what it means to be a photographer.

The following seems to add to this messaging. Fred Ritchin, an NYU photography professor, just kicked out a new book titled, After Photography, which explores the democratization and manipulation of photography via digital cameras and computers. (Buy it here.)

Some excerpts from the Time Magazine review by Kate Pickert:

1. On the idea of rising influence of photo editing via computer software: “[F]or the first time I saw a photographer as no more than a paid researcher looking for images for someone else to re-present…In the days of film one would have had to be physically on site to be able to micromanage the photographer; the photographer’s autonomy was somewhat more impervious…Increasingly, much of the photographic process will occur after the shutter is released. The photograph becomes the initial research, an image draft, as vulnerable to modification as it has always been to recontextualization.”

2. On the future of photography online: “[A] new photographic template for the digital environment could be devised in which information is hidden in all the four corners of the image so that those interested could make it visible by placing the cursor over each corner to create a roll-over…Unlike an analog photograph where the viewer is told never to touch its center for fear of smudges, the reader is invited into the interior of the digital image…”

3. On how digital and cellular phone cameras break down limits on who can get images out into the world: “[A]mateurs increasingly cover the news more effectively than professionals, as was the case in the London bombing of 2005, the racist rant by actor Michael Richards, or the return of the American war dead in caskets. They also frequently make the news, such as soldiers’ photographs made in the Abu Ghraib prison or the videos of captive either pleading for their lives or being murdered that are expressly made by insurgents to foment terror…It may be time for professionals to pay more attention to how amateurs envision the world.”


More from the review and my brief thoughts about it after the jump. Hit the ‘continue reading’ link below…


4. On the everyday uses of digital photography in the future: “The increasing cyborgization of people in which cell phones, iPods, and laptops reach near-appendage state will see photography extended into an all-day strategy, including images that are made according to involuntary stimuli such as brain waves and blood pressure. The camera will also be circulating within our bodies and stationed in our homes, acting proactively to warn us of and possibly attempt to correct any problems (disease, fire, an accident), even on the molecular level.”


While the review goes on to reveal a certain disappointment in the inaccessible, “academic-sounding” prose, I’m still planning to give it a read.

My thoughts on this stuff? The title intrigues me the most. After photography. Hmmm. I think what Norton’s really saying with the title is: “After Photography As We Know (KNEW?) It.” Far less catchy, I know. He and his editors are smart. Photography is not going away, but it’s changing at light speed, and what looks like photography today, might not resemble photography tomorrow. And I’m not talking sylistically. I’m talking conceptually an symbolically, as in “What IS photography”.

Like a mouse who’s regular cheese stash has suddenly been moved, we pro photographers have two choices: 1) squeek about that cheese being moved, or 2)go find more cheese, new cheese. Photographers new to the cheese race? Go find that cheese for the first time. To the cheese buyers? There’s a range of cheeses out there, from stinky to bland, and from cheap to very very dear. Enjoy the dining options, you’ve got the whole range to choose from, and each one comes at a price.

[CheesePuns fully intended. Have a great weekend. (via Guy Kawasaki)]

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