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Friday, 14 March 2014


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Mike, I think you are spot on regarding current conditions. I think that as we hit critical mass, sales start declining after the peak (which may have already occurred, hence the flat sales of DSLRs).
With cameras in most cell phones, more cameras are carried by more people everyday then any time in the past. Is the camera phone functionally any different than the brownie was, in terms general usage? I think not, it is today's Brownie, with built in processing to boot.
Getty just introduced The Moment app for iPhones which fits right into this mindset.
I see today's camera choices as the modern day film choice. I shoot m43 Olympus, Fuji APC, and Canon Full Frame. 3 unique sensors, from 3 sources - each with different renderings. All great.

I believe it's more of a photography craze than a camera craze. When we see billions of pictures being uploaded to social networks everyday, it becomes easy to conclude everyone seems to feel the need to illustrate their lives through pics (even if it's just their breakfast they're meaning to show). To do this, they will use anything that's on hand with the ability to take pictures, which includes, of course, mobile phones, tablets and 'phablets.' (Is there a neologism more idiotic than this one?)
I believe it's not a camera thing, but a photography-related phenomenon. Hopefully it will drop down at some point (maybe when people realize not everyone is interested in seeing what they had for breakfast), but in the meantime it sent many photography enthusiasts on a quest for authenticity, which should explain the growing interest for film photography. (At least it happened to me.) Just like in music, what with the demand for vinyl that's increasing all the time. Digital brings saturation and allows all kinds of excess, but ultimately it's all fake and devoid of any meaning.

Did the "hand camera" craze ever wane? How are we not still riding the wave that started in the 1890s?

I see it as the "personal photography" craze, which only grew in popularity as technological innovations allowed photography to become more and more personal (even as the personal--including, and probably aided by, personal photography--became increasingly public).

Dear Mike,

I don't think “craze” is the correct word, at least not as you define it. We don't have good data for the very early years of popular photography, post George Eastman's invention, so there might have been an early wave of enthusiasm that declined, but the broad pattern we've seen is a steady trend towards more and more photographs per year and per capita:


I know you're looking finer-grained than that; do you have any historical data or anecdote that supports the existence of an early wave that declined? (Absent any affect of World War I, of course.) I'm not saying it's not true; just that I haven't come across it.

With that quibble aside, I think your comparison between the current era and the turn of the last century is very apt. I am only arguing that it doesn't qualify as a “craze”.

And, digressing slightly, it's worth noting that ever since George Eastman, photography has been fundamentally a democratic medium of the masses. That is overwhelmingly what it's been used for and what has driven the industry. The so-called “serious” or “professional” photography has been a very thin layer of icing on a very large cake for at least 100 years. Very tasty icing, to be sure, but it's not why photography exists. It's about that massive cake: photography as the premier folk art/craft medium of the 20th century and the premier personal recordkeeping and memory tool.

Self-appointed would-be gatekeepers who bemoan the large number of “bad photographs” made every year have totally missed the point: they aren't the audience and photography isn't all (or even predominantly) about them.

Heaven knows, I'm an elitist. I'm not reluctant to say so. But only when it seems appropriate to me, and if there is one medium for which I am confident it's entirely inappropriate, it's photography!

Or, as others have put it so succinctly: if you don't like it, don't look at it!

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Cameras and bicycles. Yes, two of my favorite hobbies for for most of my life have become so widespread that I no longer feel like some weird nerd with obscure hobbies. Depressing. I have even had to cut way back on my formerly 5000 mile years on road bikes due to the huge increase in danger from more and more negligent riders. And photos..sometimes I have to stop looking at them for a while since there are so many everywhere.

I am selfishly hoping both wane rather quickly. I want to be the weirdo nerd again.

Extending Ctein's notion in a new direction...

I think you guys think about photography differently than most people think of photography. For most people it is about communication on an immediate level. "Look at what the storm did to our house!"

Looking at other means of communication (telegram, telegraph, telephone, cellphone, etc.) might provide better insight to the likely future of photography (as a whole).

The critical thing about the digital photography revolution is that it made photography "free". Most people get a camera bundled up in a device they purchased for other reasons. The ability to disseminate that photographic information has become free because most people purchase web access for reasons other than photographic communication with friends (sending photos is an extra benefit).

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