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Monday, 02 September 2013


I think photo historians might skip over the current era since there will be so few surviving photographs, unlike the 1890's that produced millions of photographs that are still available for consideration.

There is an old (and trite) saying that "Nothing lasts forever." I often wonder what will replace digital? Just saying.

sure. but of course the "hand camera craze" didn't exactly fade away in 1890. just like the personal computer craze of 1985 didn't fade away (2012 pc sales order 350 million units world wide or about 1 per person in the US. that's 3 decades into the pc craze...)

will people devote as much time to facebook, blogs, web sites, and twitter in 20 years?
how much time do people watch TV??????

Did the 1890s camera craze end? Weren't people madly snapping away with their Kodaks right through the 20th century? (The principal memory I have of traveling through Europe in 1964 as an 11-year-old is my Dad stopping to take a picture using his Instamatic 100 -- remember those?)

On another topic... there was a bicycle craze in the 1890s, too, occasioned by the invention of the "safety" bicycle, the design that is standard now where the front and rear wheels are the same size. There must have been some some correlation between the two crazes. I'm picturing people cycling out to the country on their safety bicycles carrying a Kodak. Any photography/cycling historians out there who know of any related publications?

It's definitely a period of historical proportions, no doubt- a time when new technology (on several fronts) and changing social norms have combined into a way of communicating (visually, verbally, aesthetically) that has been unprecedented and largely unforeseen.

Perhaps, more importantly, it also marks a difference in why and how we take and use photographs- particularly in regards to the differences between "we" and "me:"


Well it's not like the craze of hand cameras actually went away right? It just settled down in normalcy... and eventually led to the SLR, the pocket cam, the DLSR, the camera phone, etc.

Maybe that's what will happen here too... things will just seem normal with whatever state cameras are in. Until the holographic cameras arrive that is.

Although it's given rise to to a great evolution in photographic equipment, I sort of hope the Digicam Craze is just a fad. I have the overwhelming sense that there are just too many photographs in the world, and that the world will get along fine if I don't contribute to the proliferation. I guess I miss being part of a small, elite club who laboured away in darkrooms practicing black magic.

The healthy thing about too-many-photographs — and not just too many bad photographs: we internet is riddled with the work of really fine photographers — is that it cautions me to be very select about what I print and what I share. If I add anything to the already-overflowing pond, it had better be good!

Remember the desktop PC, a behemoth by today's desktop computing standards and certainly not something to carry around in your man purse like you might your Apple Air? The tablets are the current version of that desktop PC craze (which itself was the successor to the short-lived Mini computer craze, think Wang not Apple, that attempted a minor coup on the main frame computers.)

Someone more fashionable than me can probably jump in here about watches: I thought smaller was better when I bought my very thin analogue dial wristwatch with a very light and warm leather strap (surprisingly cheaply) until I was told that thicker and arm-wrenchingly heavier with unreadable information-density were the features to look for. What!?

Working for a small high street independent camera store in West Wales, I have seen our turnover double in 3 years (to >£5m)and I am constantly amazed not only for the appetite for 'gear', but also, thankfully for us, the huge turnover of hardly used secondhand gear. More people seem to be happy spending considerable amounts of money trying things out for a short time and part exchanging for some other 'magic bullet'. There is definitely a sense that the rapidly improving technology is capturing peoples imagination and also offering things that couldn't have been attained for them previously. Two observations: 1)Fantastic, 2)Most people barely understand it.

I've been waiting for a chance to share an observation I made a couple of weeks ago, and while this column is a thin excuse, I'll take it. Here in Santa Fe, we not only have a lot of photographers, but we have various kinds of art-based festivals that draw them out -- both locals and visitors alike. I've never seen more DSLRs than here, during gone of these festivals; I think people love the ability to take their photos, and then immediately see them on computers and slates. A week ago, during Indian Market, I started noticing a lot of Nikons, and began consciously looking at camera brands. I actually saw a Leica, and something I think was a Fuji, but what I really noticed was a lot of mid-level NIkons; dozens of them. I saw one Canon. I don't know what that means, but what I suspect is, Nikon has really taken it to Canon in those mid-level cameras between the 3100 and the 7100. Could be wrong...

Well, let's see what other "it's the end of the professional [previously 'expensive' to enter profession now more 'affordable', 'capable']" that have occurred in the last, say, twenty years:
- typesetting & layout [Adobe Pagemaker; Adobe Postscript; Apple Macintosh; Apple LaserWriter]
- video editing [Adobe Premiere; Apple Macintosh; various capture boards, like MoviePak and MoviePak2; Newtek Video Toaster on Amiga; Apple Final Cut Pro]
- affordable, independent 'cinema' production [first generation, progressive scan miniDV cameras, like Canon Optura, Canon XL1]
- darkroom c-print-ing [archival pigment ink, seven colour inkjets, like Epson 2200, Epson 7600]
- 3D animation [Newtek Lightwave on Amiga; Electric Image Animation System]
- video post production [Adobe After Effects, Nothing Real (then Apple) Shake]
- image post-production [(Silicon Beach Software) SuperPaint; Adobe Photoshop]
- vector drawing [Adobe Illustrator; Corel Draw!]

Some of these did democratize certain aspects of media creation. Other underlined that equipment alone does not make a professional, or at least did not negate the time and dedication required to stand out in a field of amateurs, and to remain or become a professional.
Not to say that reducing the costs of the equipment to a field or endeavour does not bring advantages: it's more like the standards of quality are swamped by the quantity of 'new' material, until the fundamentals of the quality that defines the profession are re-cast from the forces of so many new participants. Many times, the original metrics [of quality] are slightly evolved, though remain very similar to what stood before.

So, yes, my current opinion has usually been that affordable accessibility does move a profession forward, thought few know how the profession will evolve.

My favourite example is video editing, because I went through the changes, from A-B roll BetacamSP to MoviePak digitizing [on a Quadra 950] to the last analogue steps before full digital, sampling BetacamSP using a Targa 2000 Pro board [on a PowerMac 9600].
Today, everyone can 'edit' [with iMovie and equivalent], though good professional editing is measured by nearly identical metric as the A-B roll days: dependability/reliability, speed and quality. Same applies to hardware as to editor.

/i'll now get off the BBS and clear up a phone line for someone else to download the discussion

I always thought of that as the era of the bicycle camera,
Google led me to this
Pretty amazing.

My feeling is that the future of consumer cameras is as components of other ubiquitous devices like phones, eyeglasses, jewelry etc.

After spending the past week with relatives with iPads , I'm realy interested in that Sony "lens camera" if it will work with a tablet, and wonder why Nokia hasn't made a tablet with their 41 Mpx camera.

I've seen claims that a majority of the photos ever taken were taken in the last 12 months, or similar. And I saw a LOT more people around with digital cameras in the early 2000s than I had seen with film cameras in the last 1990s.

So yeah, we may well be in the next great photographic transition.

http://blog.1000memories.com/94-number-of-photos-ever-taken-digital-and-analog-in-shoebox seems to be the estimate of photos taken that other things link back to.

I think not (i.e., craze). Since the cave, images have been both popular and important, to everyone. People will never tire of seeing themselves or others. My father was a photographer and I've been looking at images for nearly seven decades, yet can still be thrilled and amazed by, for example, an outstanding capture of a surfer or an expression of a grandchild. Phone cameras will continue to produce billions of images each year; the incredibly difficult challenge is to find effective filters. My way---excluding family images---is to rely on a few blogs (TOP at the top of the list) to point me in interesting directions. Might I suggest http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/08/winners-of-the-red-bull-illume-photo-contest-2013/100583/ for some tasty eye-candy.

I believe you may be correct, although I think this craze will run longer for several reasons: 1. In the 1890's you needed to develop and print that film, and most people with cameras didn't have that ability or equipment, and that continued to be true until just over ten years ago. Different story today, and now there are multiple ways to enjoy those photographs. 2. problems brewing in the middle class notwithstanding, today there is both a higher percentage of people able to buy cameras and just more people period----and that extends around the world more than ever. That feeds the manufacturing beast. 3. From that---it's much more of a consumer culture now than then, and cameras are great consumer goods. 4. We are now acclimated to photo culture for more than 100 years at the consumer level. In fact, digital follows on the heels of the 35mm camera craze, and the modern film P&S craze. The current digital craze was therefore front-loaded for even wilder success.

But I do think things will eventually taper off, although I don't think we are seeing the leading edge of that yet. Some of the shaky numbers we've seen quoted by manufacturers can easily have other explanations (global financial crisis, anyone? Still happening...). And really, given some of the other things going on these days, the digital camera boom is even more remarkable.

Like all crazes it won't "go away" it will just become mainstream and wont be a craze any more.

The real sea change has not been digital cameras per se - that was just the enabler - but the degree to which images are now used as part of social and news media, and this has as much to do with the addition of capable cameras to mobile connected devices.

Photography has not changed much, but the way we use images and the kinds of image we use has. I believe youngsters today are actually quite adept at creating the kinds of images that will be of great interest to future anthropologists and historians.

I feel a new genre will need to be invented. Probably called "social photography". And I don't mean street photography, it's more experiential than that. More like Stephen Shore taking pictures of his fried egg but on a mass scale.

What effect Google glass will have I wonder. Not sure it will actually change much except for a few interested geeks. The phone phenomenon has been the key one.

And millions (indeed billions) of images WILL survive even if 99.9% don't. Electronic information is remarkably persistent once shared. It's like frog spawn. Safety in numbers...

"Maybe this is just a wave-a rogue wave-and once it passes it'll be gone."

How about a truly massive CME that will cook most all of the worlds electronic(not to mention the power grid) and wham!

Back to wet plates!

Mike, here is a comment I submitted to you some time ago. I don't think I would change much of anything I said then; perhaps it bears repeating now.

Featured Comment by Rodger Kingston:
The digital revolution in photography that we are swept up in today is very much akin to the first several decades after 1839, when photography was first invented. Then, as now, constant improvements in both equipment and light sensitive materials proceeded one another in a headlong race that makes ours today seem tame indeed.

From Daguerreotypes to Ambrotypes to Tintypes; from Calotypes and paper negatives to albumen on glass, then wet collodion negatives; from salted paper prints to albumen prints; all were cumbersome processes that required taking the darkroom into the field and coating the plates immediately prior to exposure, then developing them before they dried.

All of this (and countless more subtle refinements) took place in the nearly half century between 1839 and the late 1880s, when the first dry plate negatives and pre-sensitized printing papers were introduced, thus ushering in the modern age of photography that has ended so recently.

The point of all this history is that some of the finest photographs in the entire history of the medium were made in these early years, when "operators" (as photographers were first called) had not only to master their cumbersome and ever-changing equipment and materials, but also had to invent the practice and profession of photography itself.

Over my many years as both photographer and collector, I have often wished I could have experienced the excitement and sheer adventures of those amazing first decades of our medium. Well, now I am doing just that.

This digital revolution we are all a part of is almost exactly the same as those first heady decades: the infancy of a whole new means of human expression and endeavor, with the same sorts of challenges that faced Fox Talbot and Daguerre, Roger Fenton, Frances Frith, and all the other early masters.

They didn't complain about how slow their collodion on glass negatives were, or how inadequate their bulky cameras and crude lenses were; they worked to improve them, and more important, learned to make great photographs despite (or perhaps because of) the limitations under which they were forced to work.

I love digital photography, and I come from a long career as a film photographer and Cibachrome printer. And if I have to struggle sometimes to keep up with the latest equipment and software, I know that I am simply walking hand-in-hand with Mathew Brady and Julia Margaret Cameron and all the others who brought photography into being.

Thanks Mike, for the historic overview and the thoughts.
I guess we'll have to wait until we all have Google implanted in our brains to find out what they want us to do next.

Smart phone age.

Kodak's last hurrah was the disposable film cameras in the 1990's, which sold millions more than the AF SLR's of the time. Alas digital p&s and cell phones became the equivalent because no intermediary processing required. And when they quit working...get another one.

I recently discovered my grandfathers 1910 Kodak Folding camera that thankfully takes 120 film. I took it on vacation with me and made a mess of 30 exposures using it. Our living room has an original print of my grandfather diving off a boat in midair taken with the same camera around 1912. I Wish the person who took that picture was still around to use my digital gear for me.

Crazes are made for passing, passions for staying - perhaps the "Digital Craze" will end, but the passion for photography not. It will just continue with new mediums...

This is a craze, sure. There are apparently pretty visceral reasons for making pictures. As has been noted, it's a lot like the craze for photography triggered by, but not limited to dry plates, and roll film.

The underlying factors make the digital revolution a change merely of degree, not of kind. I claim, though, that there are two important related factors that make it effectively a change in kind, and not merely one of degree.

First, the quantities have lept from "a lot to look through" to "completely impossible to look through". As long as film limited the output, it was possible for almost everyone to, from time to time, flip through all the pictures they ever took. If not that, at least to dip in and flip through a goodly section. I'm talking here about amateurs taking pictures of the family, vacations, etc, not Garry Winogrand. These days it's common for an enthusiast to produce 1000s of pictures per year. Without seriously curatorial effort, this becomes an unmanageable heap almost immediately. A threshold has been crossed.

Second, the ways we share digital pictures are mostly chronological. The old is buried under the new. When we're sharing 1000s of pictures a year, the only pictures that are actually accessible are the new ones.

These combine to produce the curious result that, now that all pictures are preserved in perfect color and clarity for all eternity on Facebook's servers, pictures are now seen as inherently ephemeral. They're disposable and temporary and free.

This is a change in kind, in the way we think about photographs, the way we use them, the way we look at them (as a society -- our little cadre of artists doesn't count here, we're stuck in the last century, thank goodness).

Enough with the "craze" comments. This is my favourite photo of Mr. Eastman. And I live in Rochester.

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