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Friday, 03 January 2014

Comments

While I'm sure it's not news, perhaps looking at a service to do the scanning is an option? The faith required is pretty high - all the worries of sending film off to be printed/processed multiplied by the large numbers of negs getting shipped out - but for a large quantity of work...

I do find it frustrating that I end up sharing a cruddy iPhone picture in lieu of the really good shot I took on another camera, even sometimes shooting a pic off the LCD of the camera in question:) But, I also enjoy having a curated collection of images that are not tied to the moment, sometimes years later showing up in a wash tray.

"Today, it turns out, it’s whatever can’t be networked that becomes less important."
-Craig Mod

Perhaps.

This is also the year that will debut a much anticipated documentary on Vivian Maier, the classic film photographer who kept to herself, created and photographed for herself, and is now celebrated for Not being like, and not doing like everyone else...

Hi,
On the topic of the New Yorker article:
(from my post on rangefinderforum)
"I want the next Leica M7 "Intergalactic", which will develop and scan Tri X by itself, will crop and edit the pictures, and then will send the good ones to MOMA for exhibiting. As a documentary extra, it will send the jpegs of my cat into the inter-galactic space for the aliens to analyze, and it will also use an inverse image stabilization sensor, to see if I am not developing Parkinson's disease, in which case, my doctor will be alerted automatically via Twitter. At this point, I will be able to say, that my current camera models are redundant."

And, from the same source, a suggestion for your scanning problems:

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=138452
(post nr. 16)

I wish you a fruitful 2014 Mike.
Marek

Maybe I'll eventually become carefree or time-constrained enough to share images straight from my camera or phone on a regular basis, but I'm so used to going over the photos later, deleting the many duds, improving the decent ones, and then perhaps sharing, that I've developed habits and standards that are hard to change. I just don't feel a compelling need to share birthday photos 5 minutes after the candles are blown out.

Microsoft's Photosynth project is a good example of what can be done with cameras as "networked lenses": http://www.ted.com/talks/blaise_aguera_y_arcas_demos_photosynth.html . The good stuff starts about 2:35 in and really gets going around 3:35.

So sad, so true! Computers, the internet, "digital everything" have brought one of the most profound, total and final, changes to communications and art ever. What is being lost is both staggering and heartbreaking.

How coincidental. I'm just finishing a TOP new year piece with an introductory paragraph that reads:

Surges in technologies have enabled us to capture and share photographs in ways that would have seemed like pure science fiction as recently as the end of the 21st century. But the good old print remains the medium offering the greatest potential for longevity of a photograph.

I think that nothing frightens today's youngsters more than the potential for not being noticed, hence all the social noise. They seem to live in a crowd-sourced social world where the individual doesn't count for much. When I was young nothing disturbed me more than the prospect of becoming inept or unaccomplished ... and being noticed as such. The individual was everything.

Nothing deep here. Just observations.

By the author's reasoning, painters should skip the pesky intermediate step of actually making a painting before photographing it, and do their work directly on their iPads or other tablets. Then...whoosh!...into the ether for instant attention, and equally instant dismissal by a phantom audience that has moved on to the next post.

Ummmmm....no thank you!

I found this article frustrating because while it had some genuine insight it also completely misses the big picture in order to attach itself to what it sees at the larger social and technical trends in the industry.

What does it miss? It misses this: the tools you use are very dependent on how you plan to deliver the pictures, not how you shoot them in the first place.

Now, it's true that most people these days deliver pictures digitally, and for this having a camera that is on the Internets has some value. It's also true that the traditional camera companies have completely missed the boat on this functionality, which is a big reason why phone cameras are killing in the low to mid end.

The New Yorker piece starts with the premise that people want to share pictures over the Internet and ends with "and phones do that, so cameras are dead." But I think there is more to it than that.

First, there are still people whose main delivery vehicle for pictures is prints. The number of people who do this is a lot smaller than before, but this an area where you need a bit more software (or darkroom heh heh) support than your phone will give you.

Second, there is another population of people who still primarily deliver digitally, but for whatever reason want to take a bit more time at it than just hitting the twitter button. Maybe you want to tune things a bit better. Maybe you want a way to organize and archive the pictures more systematically. Who knows.

These people also tend to gravitate towards "traditional" cameras and more complicated processing tools that you mostly run on your computer.

Personally I fall into the second camp ... and here's the interesting thing. No one seems to be improving the tools for these people either. To get the pictures where I want them I need to undertake at least 15 different workflow steps (import, edit, rename, adjust, export, copy, backup, backup, backup, sync to devices, upload to Internet albums, etc) and none of the existing final delivery systems (flickr, smugmug, apple photostream, iPhoto on the iPad, whatever) are actually decent to use They are all awful in their own ways, but mostly they are awful because they don't connect to the tools you use to capture and process the image. Sound familiar? There is a TON of room for improvement in digital workflow tools overall that has nothing to do with packaging it up in an Internet-connected camera. Editing on the camera is mostly awful anyway.

I think the New Yorker piece ultimately misses the point because it is ignoring anyone who does not use the prevailing mass-market photo workflow. I don't mean to put myself, or anyone else, on a higher plane than the masses just sending out pictures with twitter. I'm in general not one that thinks that the new ways of working inherently cheapen the medium or anything, or that you have to shoot raw and painstakingly edit in photoshop in order to do "real work". I'm just saying that the tools you want are determined by how you work, and I think this piece misses that. The author seems to see the tool that *he* and a lot of others want and then assumes that it's the one that *everyone* wants and then declare cameras dead. By that measure, real cameras died when you could shoot a few rolls on your P&S and then get the prints made in a hour. That's what almost everyone did before the camera-phones showed up, but no one seemed to confuse that with other ways of doing photography.

So, summary: connectedness is to do with how pictures are delivered, not how pictures are taken in the first place.

And unrelated: you are right to hate scanners. Scanners are awful. You should send your film to scancafe.com and have them worry about scanners. I did this and brought some of my old slides back to life.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/79904144@N00/8461603634/in/set-72157632724156868

(Yes, I use flickr even though I hate it. My main family albums are elsewhere though. But actually they are mostly on iPads now).

One of the reasons that I think physical prints still have a place is the essentially ephemeral nature of digital files. There are billions of digital photographs being produced each year. Some small portion of them make their way to the digital cloud via sharing sites like Facebook or Flickr. Most are likely residing on everyone's phones or hard drives--uncataloged, poorly labeled, and likely lost as time goes by. Perhaps that's a good thing--there are certainly a lot of crappy photos being taken. On the other hand, you repeatedly read that when someone's house is burning down or a tornado is bearing down on it the first thing people grab after their family is their family photographs. Will they run back in to grab their hard drive?

There is something amazingly secure about taking your SD card down to CVS (or wherever) and having prints made of Aunt Minnie's 80th birthday party photos. They then become physical objects that exist. Even if you throw them into a shoebox that ends up in the attic, one day your great grandchildren may find that shoebox and discover their past. Will your great grandchildren be able to find your hard drive, if they do will it still work, if it works will anything recognize the files? I doubt it.

While there are things a print can give you that other deliver mediums currently don't (e.g. resolution, tonality, etc.) the reverse is true as well. Being "lit up" on a screen serves some images better than reflected light off of a print does. Also, it's much easier to have a group activity of looking at photos on a TV screen than by passing prints around. Old "standard definition" TV sets had too poor of an image for this, but current HDTVs hit the "good enough" point and if-and-when 4k screens become common then the images will be better than "good enough".

As people have talked about the advantage of having a camera that's "always with you", there's a benefit to always having your images at hand be it on a phone/tablet or easily accessible on the Internet. Recently I learned that an acquaintance at work is an avid photographer, and he was able to show me a selection of his photo work on his iPad rather than having to remember to bring a set of prints into work.

Regarding the "compelling universe of information waiting to be pinned to the back of each image," as I obtain more family photos and use Lightroom to organize them I find it invaluable to be able to quickly view all photos of a particular person/place/grouping based on keywords or location information. Looking at photos isn't always about enjoying a particular print, it can be about looking for similarities/differences across time, groups of people, or other criteria.

I was just catching up with your blog posts in reverse order today. I saw this latest entry before I read the earlier one talking about your diet success and I had an epiphany. You see, a few months ago, on a trip to Wisconsin, I sent you an email inviting you to a meal while I was in your area. I never received a reply. Being a normal human being, who believes he is at the center of the universe :), I was slighted that I was brushed off.

I momentarily relived that slight when I just now read that you are perplexed why people don't just email you. And then I read the other post which made me sit back and think. I had offered a man who is striving to change his eating habits the very poison that would hurt him! Having personally lived through that struggle, I truly understand the massive effort your have had to undertake. I then also reflected on the fact that you must get dozens if not hundreds of invitations to meet and probably cannot reply to all. So I must sincerely apologize for my insensitive offer. I really appreciate that Ctein put me on to you and thank you for a wonderful informative entertaining blog.
Jon

[Very sorry Jon! It's not your fault! I'm just very disorganized. I often just lose things. I frequently don't answer something right away just because I don't know the answer, then I don't find my way back to it. Sorry for slighting you. All best, Mike.]

The fact that 99% of generated images will never be printed, only displayed on digital devices, strikes me as similar to the rise of CD and MP3 audio. Sure, it's not all that good, but it's orders of magnitude better than what was generally available before and it's way past "good enough" for all but a tiny minority of relative fanatics.

I just helped a member of that minority move four huge plywood cases that contain his 90s era Magneplanar speakers. I suspect he will spend more time moving them (and his sizable LP collection) than he ever will spend listening to them. Because his "cheap stuff" is now "good enough." even if he doesn't completely realize it.

I have just spent half a year with the most interconnected camera on the planet, the Samsung Galaxy NX. The camera can deliver your images to the web via wi-fi or any flavor of cellular data you might relish. It's also bluetooth enabled. The camera comes with 50 gigabytes of DropBox space and can be set up to autonomously and continuously upload everything you shoot to your designated DropBox folder. But-----there must be some sort of insidious generational divide that keeps each side of the generation borders frustrated. The younger people (my 18 year old son and his group) are uninterested in carrying around anything bigger than their phones. They don't see separate cameras as viable or sensible options for most of their casual sharing.

And the people on my side (58 years young) are uncomfortable with unsupervised and autonomous camera activity. I have been stymied by not being able to actuate the camera part of the camera because the web side of the camera was hogging resources to upload or (even worse) to automatically update many of the "apps" that came pre-loaded even on my beta model.

In my estimation each half of the camera was compromised in some way that made ultimately using it in a fluid way more difficult.

I am convinced that younger generations DO want to put stuff up on the web right away. I am equally convinced that they will not put up with anything bigger than what will fit in a tight blue jean pocket in order to do this. They also seems to regard images as much more transient and consumable virtual objects where my generation considers images as artifacts with potentially enormous life spans.

Camera makers missed the window. They should have introduced sharing at the start of the smart phone era, not at the hump of the curve. Now there's little effort required with a camera like a Panasonic GH3 or an Olympus em-1 to link it to an app on the "always carried" cellphone and do the same kinds of transmissions that are built in to current cameras. The difference is that the phones do it with simple elegance and the cameras are still too kludgy.

I don't think the real argument is cameras versus phones as much as it is the cultural devaluation of images in general which means that photographs are dying out as we always understood them while being replaced with a much more transient variation.

The readers here are part of a tiny part of the overall image snapping public. We are mostly older and acculturated to the of, if not print-primacy, then aiming for the highest technical quality sprinkled with the idea of endurance.

To the younger generations I think the majority have come to consider photographs as the french fries of art. Something to be eaten now, with ketchup (Instagram) and quickly digested.

The older generation is still searching for the beef....

The Galaxy NX did not make me love online sharing any more than I did before. I still want to curate and vet the things I share and I am still of the belief that most images have to be tweaked in post before they are shared. Otherwise I might not look like a very competent photographer.

I think it’s pretty simple for many of us. We email personal pictures of our friends, our family and things that interest our friends and family to our friends and family. Professional pictures often get delivered over the internet also. But pictures that we are proud of end up as prints, last a long time prints in boxes, in frames, in friends houses and every once in a while on a gallery or museum wall. That is not to dismiss what Craig Mod says. One thing I have learned from digital images is the value of the information that is or can be embedded in the metadata of a digital file. I am now much more diligent in transferring some of that metadata to the back of a print with a soft lead pencil.

Happy New Year, Mike.

I'm not quite as pessimistic about prints on paper (or equivalents) as some seem to be. I'm an enthusiastic user (over-user?) of social media, email, and the web... but there are many reasons to think that the end of photographs as prints is nowhere near as close as some might imagine. Their place surely will change - in fact it already has, in that very few people today get prints of their snapshots to pass around, instead opting to show them on their smart phones or post them online.

But there is often a sort of pendulum effect in new developments like those affecting photography. We tend to overestimate the ability of the new thing to completely eliminate the old thing (note the word "completely" in that clause), but what is new soon becomes old and the old becomes the new new.

Yes, film and optical/chemical printing are likely to become "alt" processes and little more than a cottage industry before much longer. But printing itself has been as transformed by digital technologies as cameras have. The power of the darkroom - and more - is in the computer and, to some extent, in the camera. People who could never have afforded the space or the cost of a darkroom can afford a small printer.

And in a world where almost everything seems to be becoming virtualized, we can count on the fact that the "real" will increase in value. When no one had cell phones, owning one was the mark of wealth. When everyone has a cell phone, this is no longer the case.

When everyone has snapshots and better on their smartphone or tablet, having a physical print becomes the more sophisticated alternative. And in the face of the increasing shallowness of seeing hundreds or thousands of electronic images a day, more people begin to see the real value of possessing and getting to know one or a few photographic objects in the form of prints.

And, finally, while both can be fine, the photograph that exists as light from behind the front surface of a screen can never look the same as the photograph that exists as a layer on the surface of paper. A single print in a frame, which at first blush might seem less exciting than a wall mounted screen that shows anything you want any time you want it, eventually can be seen as a singular object of depth and meaning.

PSU said, "I don't mean to put myself, or anyone else, on a higher plane than the masses just sending out pictures with twitter."

Why not? Photographically, you probably are on a higher plane. No need to hide your light. In my view, the main problem with the article is that it doesn't discuss *selection,* by the human brain, of particular images, and particular image qualities. It seems to assume that a photo is a photo, and they're all equal. Well, no; spend some time looking at Google street view, and you'll quickly realize that a good photo isn't just a photo, it's mostly the representation of a scene that for some reason strikes a photographer as worth taking, and worth taking with a particular piece of equipment for a particular reason. The author of the blog article strikes me as one of those overheated souls who thinks Twitter was a useful advance for civilization.

The Android-based camera with connectivity is an answer to this "problem" with cameras.

And isn't it interesting? An unprinted photo is nothing, yet it can live forever if uploaded to the web!

So maybe it's only a small and steadily diminishing number of dinosaurs that enjoy the baryta smell of prints and will get extinguished because there attention span is too long for that hailstorm of interwoven news-bytes that attack their nervous system...

Seriously: Even regarding the much better multitasking capacities of my young kids, I seriously doubt that the perceptive speed and capacity of the human brain can cope with the "everything connected" paradigm. I understand (and cherish most of the time) the communication possibilities we have at our hands, but all of us that are faced with a possible information overload develop techniques to prioritize and select (btw. that is exactly what happens between eye and brain) in order to make best use of the offered connectivity.
The quality of the communication will grow way subproportional to the amount of possible communication paths, and in order to ensure that quality, probably a slow intake of art in all the various forms will remain necessary. That viral information as well as shitstorms will overtake the slow but deep thinkers might be unavoidable, but I do hope that superficiality - as good as it may server corporate interests - in the end will not win.

Scanners are awful but so, sadly, are printers. Expensive, difficult to use and unreliable, they are in their own way as responsible for the decline of the print as the internet.

When it comes to viewing images, it seems to me that what computers screens and smartphones have replaced isn't prints, but slide projectors and those cumbersome folding screens. Prints are still around, and will be for a long time, even if their numbers are shrinking. But when was the last time you sat though an actual slide show? (Not a PowerPoint!)

Growing up, a family friend of ours was Richard Meek, an early photographer for Sports Illustrated and Life magazine. His slide shows of his family vacations were, as you might imagine, well worth sitting through.

Simple Cameras, those without editing features, wifi, GPS, auto orientation sensors, face, smile, eyes open, etc. are pretty much artistic tools in 10 years much like film is today. Digital photography at it's core means computers with algorithms that are in a way smarter or better than you in most adjustments or tracking. This trend will not be confined to low end camera's, but greatly impact DSLR's and even Medium Format in 5 and 10 years time. Today's smartphone cameras are already being used in high end advertising and you don't know it since most of us no longer see print ads, but internet based ads on relatively low resolution screens. What might perhaps slow the demised of simple high res cameras is the advent of 4K screens. Let's hope so :)

"I seldom share much of it even here on TOP. Don't even own a scanner any more (I have ludicrous bad luck with scanners, but that's an amusing tale for another day). I realize now that I always considered that situation temporary. I'm starting to realize it's not."

Mike, that disappoints me. We all know scanning is an exercise in frustration. It's a PITA. So much so that I too have given up on high end scanners and software like Silverfast. BUT I haven't given up on 30 years worth of work. I exercised the 80/20 rule and bought a midpriced scanner (epson V500 and generic VueScan software and am now able to share some of that work in very nice smallish prints as well as electronically on iPad.

The connectedness and immediacy of the iPhone and iPad ARE like science fiction, and I love them. And Like you, Love email. On the other hand i don't twitter, Facebook , link in or flikr because they don't interest me. For those who like those things, -they're fine.

Electronic sharing of images will only grow, and by contrast make holding 'the best print you can make' in your hands feel all the more special. Even if it's the best 'Digital" print of an old negative.

A print provides no excuses, it IS what you make it. electronic distribution is full of excuses and different on every device.
So they don't have to be drum scans, or fluid mounts or approach 4 dmax. If they were good photographs, they will Still make good prints.
But I suspect you know that already.

Somehow I don't think it is strictly either or. There seems to be plenty of room for all. It is really nice to get loads of iPhone snaps of the grandchildren instead of that one stiff school portrait that was it not to long ago. By the same token my daughter was very happy to get a print of the portrait I took of her family at Xmas even though I had already emailed it to her. A homes without art on the walls is somehow still vacant, and digital picture frames had a half life of about ten seconds even though they made a good argument for practicality. People just love meaningful things on the wall.
On the other hand I scanned some photos from my college days recently and realized that I wanted to show one to an old friend who was in it. Long story short I contacted him thru social media, got an email and sent him the file, resulting in a nice connection to someone I hardly ever see.
As others have noted the workflow is unnecessarily clunky but there still is a place for superior image quality and self expression. Then again I still recant chairs

That's recane, damm autofill

[I really like "I recant chairs...." --Mike]

Níl aon gaelige agatsa ach mo teanga, an Ghrian, nó na gaoithe, comhsuil leis an nadúr, atá sé comhsuil leis. Ní aon, ach do theanga fein, is Gaelige mo teanga freisin!

Not exactly what the linked article says but I wanted to pass on an insight from an acquaintance who is an art photographer; very well-known, represented by a top gallery in Chelsea NYC, etc.

He says that the fine art print that he currently produces will one day be passe. Photography will move on to presenting a more complete experience of the place; something like a walk-through video on a hi definition screen that reacts as the viewer tries to walk through the landscape. Something more like what Hockney is doing with his array of 9 cameras. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/sep/07/david-hockney-film-exhibition-royal-academy

The jpeg is the thing.

Personally, I find the assumption by the author that we all want to share more and more information insulting. Emerging self metrics? My routes through cities, fitness level, social status, state of mind? Are you kidding me? I’m wondering if Mr. Mod, while in Tokyo studying, ever read about Narcissus? The “whole picture” as defined by Mr. Mod is not something that I have any interest in capturing or sharing. I have two daughters who are in college, and they are of the generation that shares everything, but already my youngest daughter has begun pulling back on what she shares. For myself, I enjoy my privacy and feel no need to tell everyone on the planet my every move, thought, “social status”, what my heart rate and blood pressure were and what song in my playlist I was listening to at the time the photograph was captured. I truly enjoy taking and sharing photos shot with my iPhone, and as you might imagine, I have location data turned off. The convenience and immediacy cannot be beat. However, the tactile controls, image quality, choice of lenses, etc… of a dedicated camera make it the tool that I reach for when I want to practice photography. Yes, that is the whole point. Imagine that. A tool that is more or less dedicated to doing one thing, and doing it well. Who would’ve thought?

And Mike, my response to this article is still an eye-roll.

The connected, multitasking camera will kill the dedicated camera just like the camera killed the painter's canvas, and just like the Gutenberg press killed handwriting. Which is to say, if a new technology can perform a function better than an old one, the new one will dominate among people seeking a tool for that purpose. But that does nothing to take away the unique features of the old technology. People still paint with brushes on canvas, people still write things on paper, and people will continue to take pictures with dedicated, single-purpose cameras. Those who only want what a phone delivers will be better served than ever before. And those of us who like a slower, more contemplative, more flexible form of photography can continue our art. We may have to pay higher prices, but likely the things we buy will be better tailored to our desires. Sure, we can't buy Kodak slide film anymore, but there's still Velvia, and we can choose between using Chamonix, Nikon, Sony, or Apple style cameras, a variety of still imaging tools that has never before been available. I think things have gotten better and will continue to do so.

That said, I think I missed the part where Craig Mod said that cameras are dead. He says they're data impoverished and less important. By his clearly stated definitions, that's true. By my own, it's not. That freedom of thought is beautiful, isn't it?

Personally, I cherish photographs because they provide a means of escape. I am, generally, not interested in guided tours when escape is on my mind. Connectedness.....Bah!

Ever seen how stupid you look when you are staring at a cell phone?

Let's consider for a moment what most photography is for.

Most photography, it seems to me, is for the purpose of capturing moments that people feel are significant in their lives. These are moments they wish to remember and show others.

As card-carrying, dye-in-the-wool, cut-me-and-I-bleed-photography, TOP-reading enthusiasts/professionals/both, we can poo-poo the artistic merit and storytelling value of these photographs and mock their use online and on social media platforms, but really who are we to judge?

Besides, the historical and anthropological value of all of these photographs is incalcuable.

We live in a time in which thanks to connectivity we can share photographs (and video and audio) very easily. I'm going to guess that our ancestors would have loved to have had such abilities too. Until Kodak brought photography to the masses, they couldn't. Even then, distribution of photographs was limited. We have it a great deal better. Instead of sharing prints among family and friends in small groups, we can post pictures online for anyone to see in an instant. And if you don't want to see them, don't look at them. No harm done, no offence taken.

So in a world in which connectivity and sharing are important to the average picture taker (which I stress again is not us), any device that makes taking and broadcasting photographs easier is going to win out over one that hinders this process.

We might not want cameras that have video, audio and WiFi connectivity, we may go all gooey at our core because a camera manufacturer releases a DSLR that is an approximation of what someone thinks a 1970s classic looked like, but the general public just wants to take and share photographs. They don't care what we want. Nor do most camera/electronics manufacturers. They want to make profit by selling the public products they want.

That puts us in a difficult spot as "proper" photographers. We could end up being neglected. So we become a little defensive, perhaps even hostile when someone analyses the situation and (not unreasonably) suggests that the days of the standalone, unconnected stills camera are numbered. It's an insult to us as artists of significance, after all.

It's silly really. As long as there are devices that allow us to take the photographs we want to the standard we want, who cares that they are multifunctional machines that can tap directly into the online world?

I think the pendulum may swing the other way when it begins to occur to people that the photographic record they are creating of their lives and their families is totally ephemeral. There will be no old prints for their grandchildren to pore over. And the digital files, of course, will be long gone.

I don't know about the primacy of prints in a grand-scheme-of-things way. But personally, I derive the greatest pleasure from photographs (mine or others') when they are printed. Things that appear on computer screens have, for me, an impermanence that prevents me from enjoying them completely. (I prefer books to movies for much the same reason - though I really love movies.)

This may well be a generational thing (future shock?).

Ultimately though, whether or not `real' cameras survive the iPhones-at-the-gate is something that will be determined by economic constraints, not philosophical or artistic concerns.

Re "recant chairs" only if they are wobbly Mike

Re: John Camp. What I meant by my higher plane remark is somewhat complicated...

On the one hand, I wanted to stress the importance (to me) of a more selective and considered approach to picture editing. On the other hand, I did not want to assume any sort of correlation between such a process and excellent photos. Plenty of people take crappy pictures in traditional workflows. Plenty of people post astounding pictures to twitter (no less than David Alan Harvey does this regularly... it seems). Personally, I'll let others decide if my stuff is any good or not.

In my reaction to the article I wanted to concentrate on what I found lacking in the author's perspective without making unwarranted assumptions about the extent to which one's working methods correlate with picture quality. Whatever that means. Hard to express in one sentence.

Oh. To balance the scanned slide picture from my other comment, here is a recent iPhone picture. Completely shot and processed in the phone.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/79904144@N00/11697906106/in/photostream

Buffalo had a cool ice storm a couple weeks back.

On a certain superficial level, this argument smacks of a rehash of the old film vs. digital debates of about a decade ago. And we all know how that ended.

On a deeper level, the gist of the article has a meaning that - once we begin to internalize - frightens those among us who want to hang on for dear life to our good old ways of doing things.

In a nutshell, this is modern Darwinism at its best: adapt or die.

Although many of us may not approve or agree with Mr. Mod (gotta love that name), he and his generation (and the one after and...) will determine photography's future. Simple, obvious fact that can be lost amongst our 'well honed, mature' observations and preferences- not that his, or ours are necessarily better. Just as digital cameras have improved, so will digital viewing devices, perhaps even to the point where they actually exceed the 'limitations' of paper. Who knows? It's not exactly unfeasible that galleries of the future will also exhibit photographs via high def monitors with subscription services (rent some for your living room wall monitors each month). Prints may become the ultimate rarefied art commodities, or not- either way, it won't be for us to determine.

Whenever someone makes a pronouncement on a trend that leaves me completely cold I can only conclude that there is a flaw in the analysis. I am not unique, therefore something is being missed.

Similar pronouncements have accompanied every trend but in the end they have always ended up being additive rather than alternative.

Social media, whether text based or illustrated, is a largely new phenomenon which has become big business, but the fact that it is now far easier to amplify each existential squeak via Twitter or Facebook has not precipitated any decline, that I am aware of, in the production of novels or financial spreadsheets.

Social media has been enabled by a combination of smart phones, phone-adapted social media apps and web-mail, but the key element here is the smart phone. People take pictures on smartphones because they already have a smart phone. They have an adequate camera built in, just as they have adequate apps which allow them to scribble messages or make voice calls, play music and do all the other things that people like doing. Now they can add selfies and show people what they are looking at.

Add an artist and the smart-phone may well be the tool of choice for the next Cartier Bresson or Vivian Maier, but we have already strayed from the need for instant connectedness, in which case there is really no need to use a connected device. Even less so if you are a landscape, art, fashion, nature, travel, advertising or wedding photographer. None of these things need to be broadcast in real time and some have technical demands that a smart phone will never satisfy.

Photography will always have a life independent from social media, just as it will also add a new dimension to it. The demand for proper cameras from enthusiasts and professionals will remain, even if the interest from snap-shooters declines.

What effect this will have on the overall camera market is hard to assess, but I believe the renaissance in photography as a hobby that accompanied the advent of digital cameras will maintain a healthy demand for quality camera equipment.

The tailing off of demand in this case has far more to do with product maturity, or in the case of mirrorless, that last few inches of development that will make them truly useful as a DSLR replacement. Being smaller is not really enough of an advantage on it's own, especially if the price is in many cases just as high, or even higher. It will come.

I've read the same article on the 1st which makes me suspect that this sort of content is pushed to us in order to create biased thought patterns.

Gaelic a dead language ? There's quite a lot of people in Scotland speak it and the road signs in the highlands are in both Gaelic and English.

So you could say its a reviving niche, like film.

reading psu: "I think the New Yorker piece ultimately misses the point because it is ignoring anyone who does not use the prevailing mass-market photo workflow."

I think exactly this is the point of the article. That photo workflow is becoming as relevant as painting or film photography.

People take photos to share them. People suffered through inadequate media like slideshows, prints and albums to accomplish this, and now they have something substantially better: sharing via the internet. The entire film and camera industry was nothing more than a stopgap, until camera phones and internet allowed to share pictures.

It's like discovering that what people wanted was "light", not "candles". The candle industry was confused about this, and failed to understand why the electricity and lightbulbs took over so fast. And some few folks, like us here, actually like the candles.

What we're talking about with "connectedness" is the way technologies in essence determine the types of human creatures we become - a reality of life sort of like the idea popularized by Marshall McLuhan that "The Medium is the Message."
No denying the reality of this process, but ask yourself one question, from an aesthetic point of view - would you rather have a physical print of, say, an Ansel Adams photo, or a screen image to view?

Interesting article. But I checked again and I still cannot find so much as a simple USB port on any of my film cameras.

Go figure.

Jerome says: "People take photos to share them. People suffered through inadequate media like slideshows, prints and albums to accomplish this, and now they have something substantially better: sharing via the internet."

I don't disagree. The entire reason I went to digital cameras in the first place was for this. I also don't disagree that internet connected cameras, in the form of phones, are currently the quickest way to accomplish this sharing.

I do disagree that "capture, edit in device, share from device" is the only viable flow to use to accomplish such sharing, and I think the article did not give that thought enough credit. That's all.

I also can't resist weighing in on the prints issue...

For me a high quality picture, well adjusted, and shown on my retina iPad is better than most prints I've seen. Prints offer some tactile advantages, and are easier to hang on the wall, but I don't think they look any better if what you wanted was an 8x10 picture. In any case it's good enough for me never want to breathe fixer again.

Craig Mod muddles two things up:

Connectedness and sharing were always what made photos matter, and therefore the things photographed. An undeveloped roll of film has strong parallels to the un-uploaded picture. Connectedness has simply increased.

Metadata attached to pictures is separate and unrelated to connectedness, networks, sharing, and is a genuinely interesting notion. He seems to think metadata will elevate any picture, and in this he is wrong. But, picture+data is potentially an interesting thing to be thinking about.

That is, in my opinion, the nugget in an otherwise pretty fluffy and uninteresting piece. I was delighted to see you picking out exactly the same thing as I had, Mike!

He gets Sontag wrong too, and there are other problems, but that's a different thing.

On the general topic, I am slowly becoming convinced that we're simply using photographs in more ways than ever before. The print isn't dead, we're printing more than ever. We're uploading and sharing even more than that, though. Photography is 1000x bigger than it used to be, maybe a 1,000,000x, and we're identifying the dominant usage of photographs as the only one. 30 years ago, there really just were two things, prints and slides, and they weren't all that different. Now there's prints, slides, books, uploads, videos, desktop backgrounds and facebook and 500px and and and and they're all different and they're all stuffed full of pictures.

Photography isn't dying and it isn't becoming Facebook, it's MIRVing into a bunch of different things connected only by a sensor and a button.

Probably a bit late with my comment, but this fits right in with two of my photographic goals for the coming year: To make more prints and get them in front of more people, and to become more connected.

Within the last few weeks I have been making (and beginning to show) the first print portfolio I've done in 4 or 5 years. Most of the people I photograph are under 30 and some of them have never seen themselves in a really good print before. Their reactions have been most rewarding.

But on New Years day in a personal first I uploaded a cell phone picture of food to Facebook. It got a fair number of "likes" - more than most of my "serious" photos. Though I have to admit I put it in the computer and ran it through Photoshop before posting. Like several above, I like to cull/curate and tweak my pictures before people see them. But I have basic editing software on the phone and so it's just a short step to direct upload.

Leaving aside "fine art", I see personal photography going in both directions -- as an ongoing conversation (here's what I had for lunch) and as a life document (here's the photobook my parents made of my baby pictures). So I don't expect the print to die out just yet. It will just be reserved for more special uses.

Here is a scenario to ponder:

You are a passionate photographer who just learned that you have about 12 months left in your life.

You have often thought about self-publishing your best work through one of the various on-line photo-book services ~ for posterity.

Will you now:

- see that project through and have a few books printed to capture and showcase your best work;

- spend a bit of time sprucing-up your photo database to make it easier for your family/friends to browse through it;

- put your best work onto a tablet with a nice slideshow app; or

- just say to heck with it and leave your treasured works to the vagaries of a future without your guidance.

Cheers! Jay

I believe that equating cameras with "devices with lenses" is missing a point. We already have plenty of those types of devices, besides phones, think security cameras, web cams and the ilk.

As the IoT, the Internet of Things, becomes a reality, the problem of finding someone to pay attention to your photography, or conversely, find a good image, becomes harder. Getting a viewers attention, to really look at an image is going to become even harder than it is today. Rather than complain about the explosion of images, we should be complaining about the lack of tools to find the images we want to view.

The lack of tools is aptly illustrated by the recent upload to Flickr of 1 million images be the British Library. There are great images, some of which I would like to use, but a lot of mundane images. Searching that trove, in what is really a small portion of what is being posted now.

Finding images is the real challenge. Whether it is old negs sitting in a shoebox somewhere, or a photographer just uploading something to Facebook, trying to find those images or get someone to pay attention to them will be the real challenge. We need better tools.

On a tangent, I still hang prints on my walls. Whether it is my work, or someone whose work I admire, I'm one of those who believe a well crafted print is much better than a digital image. I really do not want a glowing digital display where I am trying to see detail in a image sized for the web at a whole 72 dpi. They may look good on a phone, but blown up to what I would consider viewing size, they just look bad.

The print isn't going away, but it is going to have competition in at least some environments-specifically home wall display. We can already look at our images on the 60 inch hi def TV, direct from camera or from the computer. We can also buy for reasonable prices, 'digital frames' up to about 20 inches and with gigabites of storage. The dynamic range and color resolution appear to meet or exceed many prints. And they can be switched from one image to another instantly. It isn't far from these to the wall mounted digital frame which replaces the print or painting on the living room -or othr room- wall. Its also true that some images do look better as screen displays than as prints. Still, I see this as an expansion of display options, not a death knell for prints. Many images will look better as prints, and as print technology improves, better prints will be able to compete.

The Railway Station is very "painterly", that is a compliment. The placement of the left rail is very nice.Great example of "leading lines" & limited palette.
Totally agree with your Start & Stop comment.Throw in more of your work once in a while. Thanks for sharing.

A wonderful discussion, with many points well-made.

To add one small element to the conversation, I suggest there is no competition between having the final product as a digital image or as a physical print. There are some overlapping functions and some purposes which are exclusive. While prints cannot compete with the digital-only process in a myriad ways (which have been enumerated at length already), there is one aspect of a physical print which by definition cannot be reproduced digitally: its physical 'thing-ness'.

Admittedly the desire for a physical photograph is relatively rare, but someone must be buying the exquisite offerings of TOP's print sales, or Mike wouldn't run them. To many people, not only TOP's readers, the physical thing has value. (It's a little like books, whose uses have diminished greatly in the 'digital age': no Kindle can ever replace the particular tactile, visual, or cognitive experience of viewing or reading a book. The physical experience has its own value.

I love my daily visit from TOP; I love the immediacy of e-mail and the many virtues of the digital darkroom … but I take great and irreplaceable pleasure in my treasured boxes of prints, the paintings and prints on my walls, and the two thousand-odd books overflowing from every available shelf it the house.

You and most commenters misunderstand: this isn't about "sharing" per se, but about the acquisition of metadata — less about giving aunt Tilly instant peeking at her grand-nephew's first day at school, and more about gathering (through means both automated and crowd-sourced) enough context about an image as to make even the best captions look as crude and basic as the scribbles of exposure settings on the negative do relative to a full EXIF data set.

Do you know where was Eggleston's The Red Ceiling taken? of course you do. But, do you know what became of that ceiling and its owner? do you know who the current owner of the place is? can you contact him/her? do you know if there's other photos taken of the same place, by someone else? if there are, have you looked at them? and, can you imagine knowing the answers to all that, with just a single click, even for images which aren't nearly as famous?

I'm not exactly a fan of connectivity — my cellphone served the same purposes as a bedside corded phone until my health condition made the prospect of my dropping dead in the middle of the street a very real and scary possibility — but his article has come the closest to making me "switch sides", so to speak; the idea of ultimate metadata acquisition has incredible potential but also many difficulties, though what solutions such as Facebook, Flickr and yes, even Google Maps, give me much hope in this regard.

Summing up, it's not that the quality of cellphone images will become "good enough" for most people — it's that the quality of a laconic "Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973" caption might stop being so.

... Just a little OT comment here:
I was just about to sigh and think: there are just too many articles here to read! ... when I remembered that one of my main problems is finding enough *high quality* articles to read. And tOP is one of the few places one can count of finding that.

So thanks, dude, happy year, and may all your shots be in focus.

Craig Mod tells us that on a six day walk in the woods he takes a picture, edits it immediately, and sends it off to the world. Then he walks a bit more and repeats the process. I’m at a loss to know why he is there at all, and how this is supposed to be better than concentrating on what’s around him rather than on the phone screen.

I don't see the attraction in this. Either his pictures are well edited because he is concentrating on them, or they are not because he is taking some notice of his surroundings. You can’t do both.

Better to visit all your friends and family on your return, show them your photos then, and give them the information in person. Having concentrated on your surroundings and your trip you have returned with something added to your life.

Ultimately with his approach, we might as well send just one good photographer to each event or place, and instead of going there ourselves we could just look at the pictures online. Holders of an annual event would only have to go to the trouble and expense of holding the event once. We wouldn’t have to show up, or actually meet people and communicate with them in person. The future is here! : ]

On the subject of editing, I belong to a club, nothing to do with photography. We have events. Within 48 hours of an event ending, unedited photos are on the club website. The photos are mostly rubbish. There's loads of them.

I can't be bothered to wade through them looking for the one or two decent shots that might be there, so how can we expect anyone else to? How can this be communication? Like sending photos almost instantly from any occasion, what is the point?

Into the new year--It occurs to me that we may be entering, as the article suggests, an era in which the "print" no longer matters, and that what does is the recorded image and its accompanying information. Are we far from, or have we already entered, the time at which the word on the page doesn't matter as much as the conveyance of information by other [more ethereal--in a literal sense] means? I note that the organization and positioning of words is lost when poetry is conveyed in some digital devices. Have we entered a time in which the musical performance by musicians matters less than the DATA of the performance, recorded in memory. What is/was a Glen Gould performance? Is/has gestalt be/been replaced by metadata?

I have a revered friend in the media/journalism business, and he would peg this article as a "fake/trend" piece. Builds traffic through controversy and really has no idea of what the future will bring, just writing their opinion.

Certainly any article that predicts the death of actual cameras to be replaced by cell phones, is looking at a very narrow part of the market, altho maybe huge in number and use.

I've said before, my sister went on a arts tour of India and came back with cell phone pictures that when viewed on her Mac, certainly makes one wonder why you would take a stand alone camera at all, BUT, if she had been bombarding me with these images on a constant and daily basis, I would have strangled her when she got home!

Is the younger generation so bereft of personal and live social interaction, that constantly bombarding each other with photos and text is passing for interpersonal communication? BTW, the "young" are already fleeing Facebook for whatever will be next, so these trends are redefined almost every seven years or so...

There is probably technology in the pipeline today which will change the way people look at photos again, and will be different than this, and will be the "new thing" that will replace this, and then we'll read another article about how cell phone cameras are dead.

What's most amusing to me, is that digital hasn't even replaced film for me, and now I'm supposed to shoot just cell phone pix? Really...Again, a narrowly defined group of users. What's even interesting to me is that cell phones didn't replace film point-and-shoots. Far more people today shoot images on cell phones than were ever walking around taking point-and-shoot film pictures. Cell phone cameras created a market of image users that function this way; they're not replacing anybody or anything. They're new users.

Well, I agree with G Dan Mitchell and Patrick Dodds. Without the resources of time and money to run a good printer, I sometimes print at the local camera store, where the transition between my screen and the store print involves some algorythm that renders the results somewhat random. So, generally my pictures look much better on screen! They also have that "internal illumination" that made slides so magical. But I still want separation between capture and publishing. In posting my pictures on my own blog I make them available to far more people than ever saw my pictures when I used film, and after all, aren't our pictures ultimately for other people? So, I'm connected, I guess, but not Connected.

There is no doubt that the camera companies forecast of camera market growth were dampened by growth of Smartphones, but like any other technology, the growth curve had to flatten at some point, and whenever it did, the pains of consolidation and doors closing would have be inevitable. The only thing Smartphones have done, is brought that day forwarded by a couple of years.

To me personally, the sales numbers are amazing, considering that everyone in developed world owns at least a Smartphone camera (and likely another compact or higher end camera). This level of camera sales indicate a true economic demand of cameras as devices, and bids well for camera industry in the long term.

In the short term, the industry will go through (pre) maturing phase while excess capacity is adjusted, but the survivors will come out as long term winners. I truly wish that Olympus, Pentax, and Fuji make it through.

As someone who has made their living in photography since 1985 I'm a bit confused by all this clamoring to "save memories". I, for one, have a very good memory and have no need to carry a camera to retain those memories so it was rather amusing that this study [http://bit.ly/1gYK5ti] has found that all these "picture takers" could be nullifying their odds. I stopped carrying a camera on vacation because I wanted a break and have some time to actually enjoy myself - sans camera.

Obviously, my perspective is a bit stilted, but when I read about all this need for
documentation of what, where & when someone has been somewhere it just strikes me as one giant [virtual] snail trail. The fact that so many people seem to think that its so important to share such personal information is more than vexing. Narcissistic is the first word that comes to mind but its also a generational thing. All those 'tweens & 20-somethings running around shouting "look at me" I suspect.

As someone who has worked in photography for these many years and as someone who takes pride in what I do I must admit that this whole proliferation of "photographers"rankles one's hide from time to time. I don't just stop click and move on. Many of the jobs I work on take hours - even days - to produce. But, alas, I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Soon everyone will be running around with just their phone/cams and, if what Thom Hogan has said takes place and the whole camera market bottoms out, that will leave only those of us who do this as a job to get on with the work at hand.

Once people start to appreciate the difference maybe then the rates will start to came back. But I digress . . .

I may be missing something here, because I haven't read through every comment and I might even possibly be missing the whole point of this post, but:

If the "trend" (because I don't know a bigger word for that) is inexorably moving toward Connectedness and photography and photographs as a whole are destined to one day live solely within the digital domain, then what will happen to the photographic advertising/commercial, wedding, art market, and all the other still current and viable outlets for printed photographs, or any kind of printed media?

Whether it's a 'print' in a magazine advertisement for perfume, or a real estate marketing brochure, or a fine art print hanging in a gallery for sale to a collector (or the product of a Print Sale, here on TOP), isn't it still true that the ultimate purpose for much photography, whether film or digital, will be to produce a print of some kind?

Given there are many uses for photos that are never intended to be anything other than a digital message or illustration or Facebook item or whatever, I still believe that an actual, physical print will still remain the ultimate goal of "making a photograph" for the foreseeable future.

Generally speaking, a communication technology superceded by a one of better utlity, becomes with time an artistic medium.
The article paints a good picture of the average camera user/former enthusiast. While some folks do really creative stuff with camera phones, they are for the most part, the current equivalent of the instamatic of my childhood. Snaps to share and put in albums. What most folks use camera tech for.
For those of us interested in "something more"...
The still from high quality video will erode the use of the DSLR etc in mags and papers. It makes sense biz wise to shoot once for multiple media. As the newspaper (physical) and news and specialty mags disappear, they will use cheaper and cheaper paper on the way down,...
Didital technology for most of us is black box, and few can wack together a digital sensor/camera in our basements (well, probably Ctein can :) ). Digital still photography will be a brief phase between film and digital video, for most of us. At least those of use that will not be able to afford the few, very spendy digital still cameras of the future. They will make Leica pricing a wistful memory.
But, a wild card, (assuming a biz as usual view of the future, i.e., leaving out the biogeophysical)will be how advanced the 3D printer becomes, potentially allowing "one of" production of many things.
In the short term, i think the nasient trend in fine art photo ebooks, and what Lenswork has been doing for a few years now, will replace much of the current printing.
Economically, 2 dimensional, physical prints will someday be a very spendy thing, not unlike that other, old coomunication tech, the painting, and before that, the sculpture. Yes sculpture was comm tech, The monumental variety mostly PR (catherdrals, Karnak, etc. :)

I agree with John Camp

"In my view, the main problem with the article is that it doesn't discuss *selection,* by the human brain, of particular images, and particular image qualities. It seems to assume that a photo is a photo, and they're all equal"

It's a pet irritation of mine when people talk about "photography" as if it was an easy concept to pigeonhole. There are many different types and uses of photography. Sharing photos with your online community is only one of them

One wonders - and it may have already happened - when the first museum show with digital picture frames will be held, so that printing is completely irrelevant, and the images 100% ephemeral.

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