Is Photography Over?

Another post in a continuing discussion (joining this post last week) about the future of photography.

Is photography over? Of course not. But a provocative title none the less (appropriated from SFMOMA) suggesting we think more deeply about what photography was, what it now is, and where it’s going. This video here is part 1 of 3 from a great symposium back in April 2010 sponsored by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art featuring Photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Peter Galassi (MOMA), Vince Aletti (New Yorker), Jennifer Blessing (Guggenheim) and others. Interesting, insightful and evocative IMHO.

If you like this, parts 2 and 3 are avail here via I Heart Photography. More video, plus transcripts avail on the SFMOMA site here.

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Yoshi says:

That’s pretty bold, but I think anyone who has done some research or studying in Photographic theory will surely know it isn’t over or will ever be. Even if you compare it to the likes of video. Painting, Photography, and Film are all different mediums, but I think you know that very well.

Greg Beams says:

As I listened to their debate about whether photography was over – in essence somehow destroyed by the evolution of the digital camera and the demise of chemical processing, I kept looking at the black and white images I shot over the weekend. I managed to get four shots this weekend that I really loved, that I felt conveyed what I was trying to say when I took them.

It didn’t matter to me that I shot these pictures with a digital camera, or that I developed them on my computer instead of in a darkroom. All that mattered to me was that I got four shots this weekend that converyed what I was trying to capture when I pushed the shutter release.

Isn’t that what photography is all about. Isn’t that what it has always been about. I got four pictures this weekend – that is a great weekend!

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What about the photographic industry, though? Is it true that, for high-end commercial and editorial work, the still photographer will be displaced by the videographer?

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Always such great information on this blog! I must agree though… Photography will never die!

I’m out!!!!!! I’d rather watch chase videos of broncolors firing at a sick rate on a mountain, for the 50th time. adios panel of human ambien!!!!! i tried… maybe another day…………

my time stamps are proof of my attention span….”um, i’m from yale and um life is life unless life um um um a box of chocolate um yale um um, well um yale, i think um um my degree and um…” this is torture. I promise to try not to post again until i finish or um um um um um um i finish, either way. Chase, why weren’t you there to put these dolts in their place?

…about to close this thing. it better get better. jeez, this group alone would kill photography in a day. it’s on your blog so i guess if you suffered through it can’t be that awful, just slightly awful.

I was hoping, make that praying for the intro to start…”and last but not least, the three stooges… jarvis, hobby and mcnally.” it may have helped save here monotone intro. oh well, can’t win em all. just getting past the into now. God, I hope it gets some life besides , ” blah blah blah, yada yada yada and has an MFA in BS and is a fine art”…who gives a rats ass, get on with the show already. I’ll try and sit through it. wish me luck.

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If anything I think we are approaching an era where photography may actually grow as a product. As the world around us becomes the constant commercial bombardment that dystopians always envisioned it would the striking, attention-getting image will be more sought after in order to rise above the visual din. At least I hope.

As for prints, except for collectors, I think prints are close to dead. Why buy a print when I can steal an image online and put it in my poster-sized digital picture frame with a thousand other swiped photos and a few hundred lolcats? Film photography is right there with vinyl. It’s not dead but the only ones who enjoy it are hipster kids and old cats.

I’m an old cat. I still get that Christmas morning feeling every time I peel a Polaroid apart.

Damn that’s boring…

Indeed, it is a very provocative title. In our country, photography is one of interests that definitely has a fast growing number of enthusiasts! It’s like you can see one from here and there, of various kinds, may it be an amateur or a pro both showing passion for its art. Nevertheless, some distinct talent can never be compared and will continue to be followed and admired because they are truly and simply amazing. :)

fas says:

So well said if we adapt to just let it come the way we want it rather than being this way!

John W Lam says:

photography and it’s components will not die, digital photography is a mean of capturing the spectrum using translation, just as the same as the question is print dead. The controversial state is education, does he / she have the mind set to learn this new medium of photography? the tool didn’t change much, just the outlook of some. Digital photography consolidated the features into a container that we can embrace. Also in terms of craftsmanship, the technology is still in it’s infancy stage, I would much rather do dodge, burn, feather, etc. in a app than in the darkroom, plus I don’t miss agitating film. In terms of printing you can not tell the difference in some prints now a days.

TimR says:

They seem obsessed with the notion of the physicality of prints, maybe because that’s how they make money. But movies have always lacked physicality (for the viewer at least), and they’re arguably a more powerful art form nevertheless. So now with digital and the Internet, stills lost physicality but gained wide distribution (like movies) unless you print them. Seems like the best of both worlds to me.

Wow, thanks for so many new viewpoints and insights on photography…

Thanks for posting this senor Chase

Don Cudney says:

LOL. Photography (capturing an image) will NEVER die. This is the “Golden Age” of photography. EVERYONE has and uses a camera and camera manufacturers have NEVER been happier or wealthier.

As human beings we are mesmerized by imagery – still or moving. Has the photography industry changed? Without a doubt. It’s really this simple – many people do not understand the tangible value of our imagery and our services. I blame this trend on the misconception that digital photography is less expensive than traditional film photography and I believe this “simple ignorance” has driven the value of our profession down along with our creative fees.

Only photographers themselves can change this tend – educating potential clients is more important today – than ever.

CallumW says:

There are those that talk … and there are those that do ….


Mark French says:

Chemical photography is dead. But not dead in the sense that nobody uses it. It is dead in the same way that Latin is a dead language. It has ceased to evolve; there is no real advancement happening in the film and chemical development arena. Just as Latin can still be used to communicate new thought, so can chemical photography be used to create new messages and communicate new thoughts.
I’ve been solely digital for the last four years but I still miss the days of hours in my dark room creating something that, at the moment of development is done. I don’t feel like my photos now are ever really done. I can still tweak and get things so perfectly precise that I feel like I’ve sucked the luck out of the photos.
I think about buying another film camera and some darkroom equipment about once or twice a month. Maybe I’ll make the jump this month, or maybe next month.
I love this conversation though. Let’s keep this going.

Richard Hall says:

This academic pontification kills creativity, I prescribe to the Nike philosophy within the realms of photography, that being “just do it” and live life with the lens.

Charlie says:

+1 Life is too short to think…..

Agree with Richard Hall. Sorry Chase this isn’t up to your normal standard of inspiring content. These people are academics who seem to justfiy there existence by being obscure and asigning tremendous significances to things that are really very simple.

I got to the 30 minute mark before closing it down.

Photography is not dead but I think the days of academic foolishness are numbered. At least I hope so.

If you had a child and they wanted to be working photographers would you honestly recommend they study with these people? I don’t think so.

Jeff Settle says:

I was bored to almost tears before the introductions were complete. I could go no further.

Lots of things are dead for lots of people. That doesn’t mean that they are dead for me. And it doesn’t mean I care what their opinion is.

Live. Shoot what you find fulfilling.

Some people may like it. Some people will not. Other people’s opinions are of no consequence.

emiko taki says:

Creativity without reflection is intellectually bereft and thus artistically hollow. Much like just living without examination is unrewarding.

Once, photography was frowned upon and not considered a high art. It need not return to that state with mindless “just do it” behavior.

But yes, there does need to be a balance. One shouldn’t aspire to be a measurbating techie. Only each individual can define those boundaries, and not merely for themselves (good art/craft is not self-indulgent).

This supposed academic pontification is philosophy. And we require it to ask the right questions, which answers the why, before the doing of anything–else one is merely enslaved to the reptilian brain of instinct. I, for one, am not ready to surrender to any type of dinosaur.

Vinoth says:

What’s funny is when the posts are about deep thinking, or news like the release of Ai Weiwei, the comments are comically low, of course not for a true passionate eye who has a simple thought to share.

However, when asked to deconstruct a photo, boy the comments elevate to a level where everyone battles to figure out where the lights are being suspended…or what body or lens were used to pull it off…

Is Photography Over?

Austin says:


I dont think photography will ever die. There will always be a strong demand for great photography. As you mentioned many times, there is a purpose for video, and there’s a different purpose for photography. There are things you can achieve and cannot achieve with one another. I have not yet had the time to watch this entire video, but that’s my two sense on where it is, and where it’s going. As long as Creativity exists, so will photography. -No matter the direction of video, advertising, marketing, or fine art.

What up Austin, Chase – funny you should mention video. Check out the above link for an article on the blog of Vincent Laboret about the evolution of video frame grabs – makes me nervous:) Its like, damn, are we going to get to the point where we just point a video camera at someone, sit back let it record, then just frame grab? Hope not.

I’m with you.

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