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Friday, 07 September 2018


I do think you may have missed part of the point of the original comment. He said, "photography has *always been* a technical pursuit", emphasis mine, but history his. It was true for Muybridge, for Matthew Brady, for Ansel Adams, for William Eggleston: how to get the sharpest print, the richest colors, the fastest lens, the most grain-free film. Albumen prints, dye-transfer prints, high dpi digital prints.

There was a period, there, let's say roughly from the end of WWII to 1970 or so, when the existence of little Leicas and fast b+w film seemed to have rendered most of these questions otiose, but that was the exception more than rule.

So I think Kuspit is wrong: the history of photography is the history of the *melding* of technology and the unconscious -- or, since I dislike Freudian concepts -- of technology and creativity. That's the field you chose: get used to it.

"The endless upgrade cycle, the more and more laborious and tedious mastery of imaging software, the solid belief in technical improvement and control as a means to achieve success, all of this leads one further and further away from any possibility of making original or authentic work."

I'm sorry, but I can't agree with a single word of that. The "endless upgrade cycle" is entered on an entirely optional basis; if you have a camera which does what you want, where is the pressure to upgrade?

The software, far from becoming more laborious and tedious actually gets quicker and easier to use; in part because of the user becoming more practised. And said software gives the user unheard of, undreamed of control compared to the time when we all shot film. Or does that not matter?

If anyone actually believes that buying a new camera (the solid belief in technical improvement and control as a means to achieve success") will automatically make them better photographers, then I am sorry for them; they are delusional.

As for to much detail - how much is too much? And who decides? The day I hear a serious photographer, or a client, saying "the trouble with this camera/lens is - it resolves too much detail”, I'll give the whole game up.

Crusty mascara is not a camera problem; it is badly-done make-up.

Resolving detail at a distance is why people use binoculars; or telephoto lenses

And does anyone think that 10x8" film cannot out-resolve the human eye? or 5x4" ? or good medium format? Perhaps even - yes, even humble old 35mm film can very probably do it.

For all those who are upset by what digital cameras can do, there is a very simple remedy - go back to shooting film.

I don't think the technology hamster wheel is *that* different now than it used to be. It's concentrated in different places, and the product cycles are faster, but the sales pitch and the relationship between the technology and how good your pictures will be is about the same.

The young Internet overlapped with the end of the film/darkroom era, and there was certainly no shortage of forum/USENET/whatever traffic about the seemingly endless possible combinations of materials and workflows that one could use to make your own prints in your own darkroom. How many hours have been spent by how many people testing films and developers and whatnot to find "just the right" combination for your particular vision? How much time did people waste with Zone system, obsessing over Zone V vs. Zone VI tones?

This tool and workflow neurosis is also similar to what we have now but the computer tools are arguably more transparent for some (hi!) and less for others.

Anyway, the truth has always been in the content of the quote: technology, workflow, tools, technique and all the rest don't amount to anything if you don't have a creative endpoint in your head and an intuition about how to get there.

All of this also reminds me of those video lectures on printing given by Richard Benson from a few years back. There is a *great* sequence near the end where he talks about the digital "controls" around color management, and the (futile) idea that you could build a calibrated machine that automatically and mechanistically gets the color "right" just by having those controls in place. In the end he proclaims that this is a horrible way to work, and that the real way to make art is to build an intuitive connection between your eye and your mind and the tools, and in his words "F**K the controls". I think this is exactly right.

... hit Post too soon ...

So obviously I agree with the quote where it talks about the unconscious nature of the creative act, and also that *some* would try and make you remove this part of the pipeline through abusive use of technology ... but I disagree that the technology is inherently anti-creative. You just have be in control of it rather than the other way around.

I hope it is a phase that will soon die out. It is not too long ago that pixel resolutions doubled every one or two years, and what they doubled to significantly enhanced quality.

I don't think it'll be too long before we get in a groove where newer technology isn't that enticing. I could easily enjoy my remaining days with the equipment I have today.

The ever present pursuit, through technology, of betterment and, ultimately, satisfaction in photographic images.....It brings to mind a description Tolstoy used to describe a character in his War and Peace:.."He was a clever but stupid man."

I would modify Kuspit's statement to say, "[The love of] Technology is the last valiant attempt to discredit and devalue the unconscious." Kind of like, "The love of money is the root of all evil."

"All extra technology does is give us more choices" - which, given the way the human mind works in most, works against creativity. It's about the mind/eye. My Rolleiflex, Leica CL, Olympus OMs and Chamonix are tools that have allowed my best work. Not that I haven't shot some "good" stuff with the XPro, but I find myself spending more time with all those options that supposedly give me ... more choices.

Coincidentally, in 2005 I wrote my June monthly column for a magazine aimed at electrical/electronic distributors about how all technology eventually becomes free. Of course that is because it's value declines as technology moves ahead and better products become available, obsoleting the prior generation and devaluing it. And that is exactly how the tech industry stays in business - getting you to upgrade.

They did not invent the idea, however. A half-century ago, the auto industry was chided for "planned obsolescence" by annual model changes.

The camera industry has done a marvelous job of marketing products using the same techniques. Except now, like many other facets of technology, people realize that what they have is "good enough" and are harder to sell. It appears that what is happening now is the writing is on the wall for DSLRs and now the companies are trying to get demand rekindled for mirrorless - bigger sensors, more powerful focusing, more options, etc...

Now we all have "free cameras" - that one in your cell phone. Everybody expects to have it in the phone and while they do pay more for it, the package makes it appear free.

Having lost the point and shoot market to phones, the camera companies have to change focus and now the target is mirrorless. Wish them luck - and buy cameras - because they need help to survive this vicious cycle of technology.

I love Comdico's post. I've been going through an acquisition/upgrade cycle and at first I was DXOing it up and pixel critiquing but I noticed that, despite some pleasure in having become a minor expert in these little wonderful image-making devices, this process was leaving me feeling flat and uninspired so I instead started looking at my favorite images, by myself and by other photographers (including Mike's levitating canoe).

I began noticing things like I would pay great attention to a review's description of the corner resolution performance of a lens while at the same time most of my personal keepers are square images or are enhanced by some resolution fall off in the corners.

Or I would be carefully studying how a particular combination of equipment could stretch out an amazing dynamic range in an image while at the same time noticing that most images I like actually have a compressed dynamic range with black blacks.

I can think of several other examples but I'm sure you get the idea. I was captivated by the technical wizardry without really tying it back to my photography desires and needs.

And I've realized that, although I own every post-processing tool on the planet I really really want to spend minimal time on the computer with an image - just a quick crop maybe and some 15-second tweaks.

I should be clear that I'm talking about work for myself. I'll do all the necessary fiddling for a client. Just did a professional bodybuilder shoot and spent a fair amount of time tweaking backgrounds and everything else one can manipulate to give the client what they wanted. But that is just a job.

And for any given professional job I would usually be better off renting any extreme equipment needed rather than purchasing and housing it.

So now I'm looking for what cameras feel great in my hand and produce good color out of the box and get out of my way when I'm taking pictures, what lenses feel great on that camera and have good center resolution and contrast (easy, since that is just about any of them). I'll probably still end up with an expensive contemporary camera but the decision path has changed. And now the whole thing has life again.

This discussion of the relationship between technology and art is interesting and has been going on since the early advances in formulating oil paints … or perhaps since the first cave dweller found the best rocks for making art on cave walls. My first thought was of the technology that allowed astronaut Bill Anders to make the photograph "Earthrise". Rockets and all that.

Earthrise is a photograph of Earth and parts of the Moon's surface that was taken from lunar orbit by astronaut Bill Anders in 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. Nature photographer Galen Rowell declared it "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken".


AI may be able to make interesting pictures but it takes a human to advance the art.

Kirk made me LOL in an empty house. :-)

Hedonic adaptation. Plain and simple.

I love that your readers make so many comments when you really touch the heart of the art. It kind of contradicts that we are so obsessed with the gear.

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