BitDepth 516 - March 21

Contemplating photography's future...
Photography in the future

Gazing into photography's future. Outlook...cloudy. Photo and imaging by Mark Lyndersay.

It's always exciting to pull out my crystal ball, gaze intently into it and pontificate on the remarkable changes that the future will bring in some aspect of technology and then get it all wrong.
Sometimes the future seems quite clear. The first time I saw Adobe Photoshop's clone tool remove a fine scratch on a digital scan of a photograph in 1990, I knew where the action would be.
The alternative to that thirty-second swish of a hand with a mouse back then was a good half an hour with a palette of tiny colour pots and a fine spotting brush under a magnifying glass.

It was fun to declare film dead in last week's column, but the medium won't expire quickly, I think. It will fade, in a flurry of words like the star's buddy in a 1950's war movie, leaking customers in a growing pool into the cold and uncaring earth.
Its passage from the mainstream of visual keepsakes will be a slow but steady attrition, as one film user after another updates an old camera for a new one and finds the choices narrowing in favour of digital.

Eventually, perhaps sooner than we think in marginal markets like ours where big swings in taste kill businesses, it simply won't be profitable to open new labs catering to film users and the business of making over the counter prints will migrate from fast print labs to instant booths with attendants that churn out prints once you insert a media card or CD-ROM.
With no need for the massive floor space and special conditions that mini-labs have traditionally needed, photo finishing is likely to become an add-on service for businesses that already have high traffic.

The cameras of the future won't look much like the ones of today, which are still married to shapes that reflect the needs of film and serve as a familiar bridge between the old and new for today's digital photographers.
Already, cameras that twist into funky shapes and lurk in cell phones presage an era in which anyone who wants to take a photograph will be able to.
The web collections of party photographs and websites like and Friendster, where the self-portrait as performance art is rapidly being refined, are only the beginning of a proliferation of snapshots that will paper the Internet more pervasively than blogs.

But will more photographs mean better photographs?
Overwhelmed by this proliferation of light sensitive optics is the question of craft, now that many in a new generation of photographers have never mixed darkroom chemicals or used the manual controls on their cameras.
For them photography's decision making process has been a computer-assisted one, with smart algorithms calculating exposure and focus at lightning speed, and when cameras are in charge of taking the pictures, the results become frighteningly similar.
Imagemaking has been through this revolution before. When landscape painters were confronted by the ruthless accuracy of the camera, an era of impressionism and abstract vision was born.

The backlash against instant, camera-assisted photography has already begun, with professionals reaching for obscure methods of image capture or messing around with absurd filters in Photoshop that replicate artsy film treatments.
In the end, a kind of art will emerge the millions of photos that the digital cameras of the future will capture, a zeitgeist of style and emotive presence that can only be found when hundreds of thousands of people begin to do something as fundamentally social as taking pictures of each other.

But there will also be a more powerful demarcation between the takers and makers of pictures, the gratifications of casual capture emerging from a broader, shallower source than the depth of thought and consideration that is the hallmark of creative photography.
More picture taking won't destroy professional photography, but it will raise the bar drastically for practitioners who wish to be seen as creators in this craft.
blog comments powered by Disqus