Are You The Future of Photography or the Problem With It?

You are the problem point of view: “When you leave everything to the crowd, where everything is democratized, when everything is determined by the number of clicks, you are by definition undermining the seriousness of the artistic endeavor…There is no evidence that we are on the verge of a great new glittering cultural age, there is evidence that we may well be on the verge of a new dark age in cultural terms … where the creative world is destroyed and where all we have is cacophony and self opinion, where we have a crisis of democratized culture.” – Andrew Keen from forthcoming film PressPausePlay.

Versus

You are the future point of view: “Now, we’re a series of editors. We all recycle, clip and cut, remix and upload. We can make images do anything. All we need is an eye, a brain, a camera, a phone, a laptop, a scanner, a point of view…We’re making more than ever, because our resources are limitless and the possibilities endless … We want to give this work a new status…Things will be different from here on …” -curators of group photography show From Here On. Arles, France

The above two opposing points of view are from this article in The Guardian by photography writer Sean O’Hagan. As far as I’m concerned, this is a non-debate. Let’s get real – it’s all the future. And you are are a part of it. The world… is NOT determined by a series of clicks. Nor does new work get a new status by simply being created. There is still merit, and there are still gatekeepers. It’s just that there are more exciting viewpoints than before AND that the keys to the gates are held by a new, different, larger and emerging cross section of the population.

And most importantly….

The future of photography –as has always been with the future of art– is cumulative, not partitive. Just like Warhol didn’t undo Monet, and Mapplethorpe did not undo Cartier-Bresson, we will retain the vision of the photographic masters who have preceded us. And we will reconcile those works with your work and my work and what’s hanging at the ICP, and the Met and MOMA, and Gagosian, and that other gallery you’ve never heard of, and Google Street View, 3-legged cats with cameras on their necks, and webcams.

The past merges with the present to make the future. And because of all that, the photographic future looks pretty damn interesting.

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42 Responses to Are You The Future of Photography or the Problem With It?

  1. CallumW July 20, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Who know that being cool was such hard work ;)

    C.

  2. Matthew T Rader July 20, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Chase, thanks for this blog entry. I totally agree with you. Just because things change it does not invalidate the past. Nor do we in the present have to do things the way they did it in the past in order to be considered legit.

  3. Lance LeBlanc July 20, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    “The past merges with the present to make the future.” Did you write this?… AWESOME Quote!

    • Mario Giancini July 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      +1

      Awesome quote indeed!

      • Will July 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

        Without a doubt, great quote Chase!

    • Praveen July 20, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

      +1

  4. Nicolae Cioloca July 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I think you always had kind of unlimited opportunities to create… at any point in the past you could grab a pencil and a blank piece of paper… unlimited options…

    Now the input around us just overflows us in such a fast pace…

  5. Charlie July 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Great post Chase. Makes me remember everyone has an opinion. Thanks for the positive support.

    On a more serious note…….Could I be the problem instead?…….a rebel like James Dean…….no cause……..

    What do you figure? I ain’t trying to cure cancer ;)

  6. sergiu July 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    All is new yet all are old as someone said.the future of art has never looked better,yet never so blank

  7. Giulio Sciorio July 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    People need to chill out. Rather professionals who are used to the same paradigm need to chill out. Take a week off, don’t mess with your computer, iphone…anything electronic and relax.

    Life is constant change and with change there is opportunity and opportunity is constant IF that is how you look at it. I think one of the issues is that at least in the professional arena of photography and filmmaking is that the business model has been static for years. We got comfortable and when you get comfortable change can be scary.

    If pros take it easy and breath we’ll have the opportunity to see…well opportunities in this time of rapid advancement and convergence. It’s never been a better time for veteran creative professionals to partner up with younger, ambitious, creatives just starting out their career.

    The artists that have been out of school a bit know how challenging the industry is and are willing to embrace new media and techniques. Younger artists could use the wisdom of those that have been working for years and the vets that are confused by social media, video, mobile media could use a fresh perspective of younger eyes.

    It’s a great time to go to a local ASMP or APA mixer and meet one another.

    I embraced motion in unique ways and it really helped me stand out. I also am happy to share my knowledge with those who have more working knowledge. There’s a lot to be learned and you can never learn enough.

    Guess what? Just when you get comfortable with all the stuff that scares you new variables will be added to the equation and you’ll start the process all over again.

  8. Jason Mitchell July 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Well put Chase. I believe they are focusing too hard on the medium and how it can shape what is ultimately the heart of the work — the message. It’s just another avenue that we can use to format our narrative (whether or not we have something to say). :)

  9. Bruce Hemingway July 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    I would add that the the future of photography –and the future of art– is not necessarily linear. Both have historical feedback loops: the current analog nostalgia craze is a fine example. As the loops mature, the art becomes something new. We CAN go home again…to someplace new.

  10. Don Cudney July 20, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    “All we need is an eye, a brain, a camera, a phone, a laptop, a scanner, a point of view…We’re making more than ever, because our resources are limitless and the possibilities endless”

    blah, blah, blah

    Yes – and who is being paid “for the USE of these artists Intellectual Property?” Sharing is great and feels soooo good – until you need to pay the rent!

    Must be nice to only worry about creating pretty pictures day to day – not your child’s future education, retirement, etc..

  11. hilary wardhaugh photography July 20, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I can see both sides of the argument, but my main issue with many of today’s photographers (I am speaking of the domestic market cos I am a wed/por photographer) is their lack of knowledge of the techniques they are using to create a certain look with their imagery eg: vintage look, solarised b/w look, poses copied and repeated over and over again. To me that isn’t photography just a vehicle to produce money; it has become over commodified and I can’t see the point…Most of these photographers have absolutely no idea who Cartier Bresson is or Mapplethorpe and what is more they probably don’t care! ( their loss!)

    I’m all for iphone photography, new technology and using it to create anything as long as its an original thought and not just following everyone else who is spruiking their wares on the www and facebook. Its sooo repetitive! BORING! This is what happens when you let the masses do their own photography so fortunately most of it will die when they lose their phones or their computers crashes! Ha!

    Your quote “The past merges with the present to make the future” is well and good I only wish it were true. Its just a shame that there are so many new “so called professionals” out there that actually have no idea what and why they are doing, but it just looks pretty and therefore has limited use.

    I believe that if the masses are creating imagery on mass, that is fabulous, but will we have access to that imagery in the future, will it be useful socially and historically? Will it be considered as art? Is that important? So yes its a changing world and I am glad, lucky and privileged to have some knowledge of the past and still open to new ideas for the future.

    Bring it on!

  12. Susie July 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    I went to Arles this year and went to the here on exhibition… i thought great appropriation and more google street view. i thought some of the artists and their concepts were great! you can talk about IP and copyright all you want but how can you copyright a sun, or even a famous landmark. yes you had taken the photograph but so has millions other people before you.

    A photographer who exhibited there told me that everything has been done.. everything has been photographed… where does photography go from here?

    the trend is appropriation and not happy to say this, google street view. The creativity comes from what you do with the available resources.

  13. fas July 21, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    I would say somewhere right in between :p

  14. Ben Banks July 21, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    Chase,
    I love stumbling on a great site. And yours is a gem. Your energy, personality, the thoughts you put into your blog, the work doing the music and food happenings and turning me on to We Are Augustines have been the highlight of my week.
    And you have kicked my butt into doing more photography. I’m in the south of France but I am in Paris frequently. I would love a chance to hang, pick your brain and partake in any new photo projects you offer for us newbies to get involved with.
    Peace,
    Ben

  15. Elal | The Shades of Greu July 21, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    The past has it’s way to teaching us what has been, and what more we can do and learn from those great things that passed and shared to us. :) Your posts are always inspiring and worthwhile to read.

    • Elal | The Shades of Grey July 21, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      Already sleepy, I guess. I mean “its” and not “it’s”, also “The Shades of Grey” not “The Shades of Greu”. LOL

  16. MIck Motor July 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Inspiring message.

  17. Belinda McCarthy July 22, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    Great point and I totally agree. Moving forward, no matter in what direction, doesn’t undo what’s gone before; you can never be ‘the past’ with what you’re doing right now. As long as people continue to put their own personalities, styles and viewpoints into their work, the future of photography as an art form is assured.

  18. Mike - the guy that never shot a wedding in his life July 22, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    “The past merges with the present to make the future. And because of all that, the photographic future looks pretty damn interesting. ”

    Ah, time….that’s exactly what it’s all about! The author of the article is focusing on the connection between digital and democratization when really we should all be focusing on the connection between digital and time….past, present, future

    Most of us tend to think of digital in terms of “the moment” and instant gratification. New technology has made it easier to create and faster to communicate than ever before. But digital is also making it possible for us to archive and recall memory faster than ever before. This means that the moment (present) is directly COMPETING with the past in a way that it has never done before.

    Pop culture is about the moment and instant gratification. It reacts to and destroys the past while investing nothing in the future. The lifespan of each pop culture trend lasts only about 2-4 years before being replaced by something else. Anything that is “cool today” is “lame tomorrow.” But digital puts the past in direct competition with the moment. The past never goes away in the digital era so pop culture can’t react to or destroy it. Anything that is created now will spend the least amount of it’s life in the moment and the bulk of it’s life in the future past. The moment is the least important aspect of time in the digital era. The past and future are all that matter.

    Are we heading for a dark age? No, we are heading for a new-classicism. Digital is destroying pop culture because it makes the past and future more important than the present. The only work that will survive the coming era will have to be timeless and connected to universal values. Democratization creates great pop artists but terrible classical artists. In the end, democratization is meaningless because pop culture is dying. The new culture that is emerging will be based on classical sensibilities and academic art values rather than the instant gratification and “just do it” mentality of the pop artist.

    • Chris Nemes July 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      Hopefully, that is how things will be shaped – based on academic art values.

      However, I believe the instant culture is still on the wave, and shows little signs of letting go.

      I think that culturally we are at a stall, trying to draw Mona Lisa by connecting the dots: from one instant cultural point to another and then to another. Horizontally. In 0.4 second shutter lag and 12-minute presentations.
      Rarely trying to go at a deeper level, vertically. We have to remember that things last only when they grow roots.

      Are we surfing or planting?

  19. Aaron Wulf - Become A Photographer July 23, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    I think this is the most exciting time to be alive in the last 100 years. Things are changing – and being created – at such a rapid pace, the possibilities really are endless today. And I am so excited about what is to come (in the future) for us photographers.

    But it’s all about sharing – and being involved in the conversation. You do an amazing job with this, Chase! Hope you are well!

  20. Doug R July 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    “3-legged cats with cameras on their necks” = LOL

  21. Mike Warot July 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    There are a lot of things that can be done once you have the ability to take virtually free images that could never have happened without a military budget in the past.

    For example, take a look at the composite virtual focus images I and others put together up on flickr…

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?ss=2&w=all&q=virtual+focus+composite&m=text

    You can take a bunch of images with the normal almost infinite depth of field, from slightly different vantage points, and combine them into virtual focus, giving short depths of field on objects as far as a few blocks away. You don’t have to have 10,000 pound, 6 foot diameter lens, you just have to move the camera through the area it would occupy.

    I hope to build my own portable array of cheap still cameras to allow me to capture people and non-still life, but we use what we have, and have fun doing it.

    There are a lot of other things that can be done, that I can’t even imagine, the opportunities laid before us are awesome. The only problem is choosing what to play with and pursue.

    –Mike–

  22. Andy Beck August 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    Interesting point of view.

  23. titus August 21, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Create and wait !

  24. Brieuc Kestens September 10, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    For a painter today it is much more difficult to “find his way” because the medium is so versatile than before early 20th century where everyone had to follow strict rules (before Impressionism).

    And that is my problem today with photography: I have the difficulty to find my way, to find my own style (also finding right equipment) because photography has taken the step of a much greater freedom. This result in more choices of expressions for a photographer. I really have been struck with the series of pictures taken by C. Jarvis and his iPhone!!! I mean it’s like “Leica M9 or iphone 4… hmmm, there is no difference”. True! Thus finding your way is so much greater but also so much difficult!

  25. Matthew Bamberg October 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Glad you mentioned Mapplethorpe. If there was ever a photography perfectionist–it would have to be him.

  26. Pam Staab November 22, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    I enjoy reading your blog. I find that when people often critique my work, they often don’t see my vision. I don’t believe all photographers or artists should follow the same old, same old. I love your photography, different and thought provoking!

  27. Matthew Bamberg December 6, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    This is just how I end my book at http://www.amazon.com/New-Image-Frontiers-Defining-Photography/dp/1435458575

    Indeed, is the photographers all around us.

  28. Viola Jauch November 26, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Thanks a lot for sharing this post. Definitely people will find this as very helpful.

  29. Kareem Krauser July 30, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    First time visit here and have your terrific write-up. May I have a copy of this write-up?

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