Digital photography's bright new world
I just read a thought-provoking little piece in The Guardian newspaper, talking about the rapid spread of digital photography and how it has distributed a plethora of modern cameras into the hands of an entire generation. But no matter how advanced technology gets, the beauty of photography is not always in crispness or proficiency of the image but in its composition and creative intent. Thought it might be a good article to pass on as an opening entry to this blog!
We live in a world where an unimaginable number of photographs are taken every day. Photo-hosting services such as Picasa and Flickr, and social networking sites such as Facebook, now host upwards of 100 billion images between them. The scale of this abundance is really hard to grasp, but recently an Amsterdam gallery had a shot at it, by printing off a copy of every photograph uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour period and then shovelling the resulting avalanche into a succession of rooms, all of which were waist-high in photographs. And Flickr is small beer compared with Facebook.
Almost every digital camera on the consumer market today is a marvel of automation, with auto-focus that generally works, metering systems that accurately assess light (at least on evenly illuminated scenes) and do a passable job of reducing the red-eye effect produced by direct flash. The newer consumer cameras go much further than this, offering face detection (so that you don't wind up taking photographs of people's shoes) and now even (so help me God) smile detection. So while it is still possible to take terrible pictures with these devices, you have to work pretty hard to achieve a convincing display of incompetence.
The strange thing about photography is that although it's been revolutionised by digital technology, at heart it's the same medium that entranced Louis Daguerre, Eugène Atget and André Kertész, to name just three of its early masters. And although it's become much easier to take photographs that are technically flawless (in terms of exposure and focus), it's just as difficult to capture aesthetically satisfying images as it was in the age of film and chemicals. It turns out that technology is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for creating art.