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Thursday, 11 April 2019


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I miss Dolores O'Riordan. As soon as I saw that album cover, I fired it up for a listen.

I doubt photography will *disappear* anytime in the foreseeable future; people will still want and need pictures of things. It will, however, cease to be a *practice* except among the most quirky of people, such as those who knit their own socks or glaze their own coffee cups.

I think photography will find a way. The consumer camera may one day become a cheap, invisible commodity built into every conceivable product and producing nothing more than visual notes…but the demise of photography will require a broad change in perception. All people will need to abandon the idea that photography is art. All people will need to become immune to that moment when a photographic image reaches out and squeezes their heart.

Cannonball’s Somethin Else really is somethin else. I have the 1999 Val Gelder reissue with the bonus track Bangoon and it’s a favorite.

I haven't seen it yet , but the show Snap

sounds like it covers part of the " digital transition" of which you speak.

I have seen the Louis Stettner and the Johannes Brus shows which are also running at SFMoMA and they are really excellent.

I’m confused as to why you are looking for "histories of the digital transition”. Digital is a technology but it seems what you’re really searching for is a history of contemporary photography as potentially oxymoronic as that phrase is. The book/books you referenced in your previous post were about the history of photography, not the history of wet plate photography or the history of albumen photography or the history of large format cameras or the transition to 35mm film. They were the history of all sorts of photography using all sorts of technologies. Even in the era of digital photography plenty of contemporary photographers work with film, among them Selgado, Uta Barth, Dirk Braeckman, Jungjin Lee,Anders Petersen, and Daisuke Yakota all of whom are contemporary to the digital transition though they predominantly work in film, have very different styles and purpose and are well recognised as sophisticated contemporary artists. Isn’t the difficulty with writing a history of the modern one of perspective and the shallower distance of time?

Not sure if this counts, re transition to digital. I have a copy of Stephen Johnson "On Digital Photography" published by O'Reilly, copyright 2006.

Somethin' Else by Eddie Chochran


painting, sculpting, horseback riding, sailboats, fountain pens, embossed letters, and blacksmithing are all alive.

none of them at the center of mainstream life nor a big deal in the economy as they once were. but all still very much alive.

one suspects Salgado's claim has some nuance to it - and it's easy to imagine things very close to what he probably really meant.

Oldster like to reminisce about the glory days of their youth. They conjure erroneous recollections—nostalgia that never was.

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. So says Robert Fulghum

Faux news was invented by ancient story tellers, today it's still being perpetrated by historians. Everyone has axes to grind—today's air is being polluted with grinding dust at an ever accelerating rate. Whose myth will become accepted history?

BTW My apogee hasn't happened, my glory days will be sometime in the future 8-)

Is the image of the black hole actually a photograph? The photons that go to make its data have about 2000 times the wavelength of visible light. The colors are not what you would see if you were nearer the object.

I guess it isn't weird that when I see a title, "Something else," I think of Cannonball Adderley.

There are people who have only taken pictures using a smartphone. For many, a camera is just another feature, like a calculator, alarm clock, or music player, that comes with a phone. And a smartphone isn't really a phone anymore since it is used only a small fraction of the time for verbal communication. Maybe a standalone camera in the near future will be able to generate 3-dimensional maps of locations with customizable lighting and weather conditions. Then it will become standard feature in smartphones. Having to be at a specific place at a specific time to capture a specific 2-dimensional image will no longer be a concern or a goal. And such tech will be applied to future versions of Google Maps streetview making it possible to take a picture of any place in the world, the way it looked 68 days ago at 3:21pm, from 50 feet up, without leaving your house.

Re Salgado's interview, as a Spanish speaker it seems to me that his main point is in the third paragraph, where he says that "photography is coming to an end because what we see in the cell phone is not photography. A photograph has to materialize, you have to print it, you have to be able to touch it." He also describes his method of getting a 4x5 b+w negative from which he gets wet prints. It seems to me that he is not so much against digital photographs as against virtual images ("Today, we have images, not photographs"). As for the article being controversial, whether you agree with him or not, his point of view is widely shared and I do not see anything controversial about it.

Clarence Hudson White obviously was no good at teaching because his former student's portrait of him is just terrible. First, it's out of focus. Doris should have enabled the eye-priority in the auto-focus menu. A smaller f-stop to give a bit more depth of field would have put the rest of face into focus too. Second, a better lens would help with the bokeh and make the body stand out more. Third, a longer focal length of about 85 mm would have tightened up the composition too. My Zeis FE Mount 85 mm on my 42 megapixel Sony A7RIII would have been perfect. It really makes the eyes stand out, and you can zoom right into them on your screen. Fourth, the composition is no good. The eye line is too high in the frame. It should be only 1/3rd of the way up. And the hands are also too low. Fifth, more contrast is needed. Doris should have turned on the auto-flash, which would have lifted the highlights (including the eyes). Seventh, her color choice is just awful. Way, way too much sepia has been applied in Lightroom. Eighth, the photo would be much better in colour anyway. If Doris set the camera to RAW instead of JPEG that could have been fixed. Ninth, the photo is just boring. It would be far better if Doris took it outside with some sort of background, and in the sunlight. And perhaps the subject should be doing something, not just sitting there. Having him hold a kitten would have been a good idea. The kitten should have been 1/3rd from the bottom, and 1/3rd from the edge of the shot, which would have fixed the composition. If auto-eye was used to focus on the kitten's eye's a really wide f-stop would have thrown Mr White into the background, which would have been a really interesting of presenting a deliberately out of focus portrait instead of the mis-focussed mess that Doris produced, especially if the photo were in color. Finally, there is a black scratch on the bottom right. The camera sensor obviously needs cleaning. The clone and heal button in Lightroom or Photoshop will get rid of it. There are good "how to" wiki's on the web if you google them on how to clean your sensor.

I'm not sure there is really enough content for a book covering the "digital transition". At best, I can see three chapters: Cameras, post processing, and effect on taking pictures. The last being the most significant. You addressed much of it with your "is taking pictures too easy?" post, and on the subject of making prints. But a full up book? I just don't see it.

I am not sure photography is dead or dying. See this from an article I read yesterday:

Pon said Fireside Camera, which was opened by the Fireside family in 1954, has steadily changed with the times — even selling drones for a short while, and most recently becoming one of the Bay Area's biggest repositories for GoPro action camera accessories. But he said the latest hot seller is something no one expected: used film cameras.
"There's a lot of young people who are trying to get into photography. They're taking classes, and they want that photo experience," he said. "The cameras that were your basic cameras back in the 70s are what's selling, and they're selling for more than they sold for new, in some cases."

Samy's Camera, the South-of-Market superstore that's well known to pro photographers, has also seen an uptick in film camera sales, and even in darkroom supplies, said rental manager Quin Boreen.

And yes, I they are definitely selling for more. I just paid a small fortune for a Rolleiflex 3.5f. I chose that over a GR III and it cost more.

As for the music, I will go with Cannonball Adderly's Something else which surely has one of the definitive recordings of Autumn Leaves. It's pretty old and it's still valid, so maybe photography will be too.

I remember reading about Salgado and digital two interesting points somewhere.
He greatly appreciated the ease of travelling with memory cards instead of huge bags of film that spoil quickly in the conditions he often works in.
And the reason why he transferred the (later) digital files to film was to get more consistent look as he also had (older) images on film in the same project/exhibition. So all were printed the same way, from film in wet chemistry.

As for Salgado's transition from film to digital, I'd like to add that his exhibition 'Genesis' showed a stark contrast between the prints from his analog times and the modern digital ones. I was shocked by the awful look of the new ones, that seemed like messed computer renderings, a travestry of the nuanced play of velvety ligths and powerful shadows of his classic images. I was not the only one to be so disappointed. My theory is that his printers tried to translate into digital his grainy lights and strong blacks to a medium where grain distribution is inverted, using far too much noise reduction in shadows and false grain in lights. A total failure.

That black hole image by Katie Bouman and her 200 assistants almost moved me to tears. Can't say that of the recent work of Sebastião Salgado. Once a good reporter, but now his work turned in a very commercial sort of Edelkitsch.

[Edelkitsch: kitsch that gives a sophisticated impression. --Ed.]

One interesting comment to that Spanish article pointed to the concept that what does and will always distinguish a photo from its (now billion) peers is INTENTION. Indeed.

I agree that an iPhone today is the Brownie of yesteryear, a more ubiquitous and accessible tool than "real" cameras (as per the definition of real at each point in time); all that matters is what one uses it for, even if it is not a 4x5" LF camera or a Leica M4P or a Canon 5D.

Arguably even 'vernacular' snapshots that one could dismiss as not "real", "serious" photos are now being recognized by a number of critics for their basic value, documentary of a past era and of what mattered to people at the time — which by the way I'm not sure changes much, apart perhaps from self-absorbed selfies and food-obsessed shots, which were far less frequent once (but who knows, maybe it is just because they were far less practical to make...).

Sadly, I have zero interest in black holes, space flight and hope never to have to consider space tourism.

If photography dies as hobby, that might be closely related to the fact that apart from some isolated cases of superstardom (even those being knocked off perches due to political correctness and 2019 morals and mores being applied to people working in the heady 60s, 70s and 80s where no such ethics existed and models were all too willing to play games to become famous), many amateurs take to the "art"? because of the Blow-Up effect and when that finally vanishes beneath a sea of opportunistic lawsuits, where the interest in an otherwise pretty dry and sterile medium?

Take the largely imaginary glamour out of photography and what's left? Miserably cold days on mountains, damp ones by the sea, roasting or equally cold ones in deserts or some spent on a city street waiting for something to happen when, really, it all happens or does not happen within the confines of one's own head.

I hate to say it, but cameras and traditional photography are largely irrelavant these days unless you are selling product, and even there, its time it is a runnin' out.

Hmm. Didn't some painters predict that it would disappear when photography came around?

Much like Mike Connealy I prefer to learn my history of photography thru individual photographers biographies. In fact I've started a blog to highlight lesser known photographers. It really has opened up a whole world to me.

It seems printers and ink will be the real casualties

Taking a step back: Is photography an activity, a medium, an art, a technology, a craft, a tool, a language, something else? As far as I know, existing histories tackle maybe one to a few of photography's many facets.

But with the "digital transition", the difficulty greatly multiplies, as it is changing not just photography itself--whatever that is--but most of the contexts within which it exists, functions, and is conceptualized, both public and private.

The fact that this transition is recent and ongoing further compounds the problem. I think the best a historian could do at this moment is focus on one or two facets and attempt to collate the "first draft" of its transition story--the real-time reporting, blogging, discussing, litigating, IPOs, commercial successes and failures, etc.

On the other hand, thanks to the "digital transition" of media, the majority of those raw materials are accessible to just about anyone who can read this blog. Fortunately, we need look no further than the writings of Michael Johnston for one of the most readable contemporary chronicles.

Pon said Fireside Camera, which was opened by the Fireside family in 1954, has steadily changed with the times — even selling drones for a short while, and most recently becoming one of the Bay Area's biggest repositories for GoPro action camera accessories. But he said the latest hot seller is something no one expected: used film cameras.

A photo store down in the Grandview area of Vancouver (which I won't name to avoid looking like a shill) is also looking perilously similar to an olde-time camera store these days -- tonnes of high-end ex-pro used Hasselblads and such, but also racks and racks of quirky old film gear.

It was pretty nostalgic browsing through the racks -- they also have chemistry, I bought a home E-6 kit to see if I can avoid the cost of shipping film around.

So it's not quite dead!

A tidbit of my personal history of photography. I studied photography at Ohio University in the early 1960's and the chair of the department was Clarence White, Jr. Like father, like son.

Whenever someone talks of the "end of photography", I invariably find that the discussion is not about photography, but the economic benefits that have resulted from photography. And so it appears is the case with this interview and opinion. What Salgado is lamenting is the passing of the profession of the respected and economically secure photographer.

Imagine a not-too-distant future where your health symptoms and ailments are diagnosed by machines and treatment, including surgery, is done by the same machines. Will that signal the end of medicine? No, medicine will be alive and well, but the medical profession will change greatly. The highly paid and sought after surgeon will be out of a job, but the number of operations performed might quadruple.

There is a romantic attachment to the skill and art of a photographer. It is familiar to us. Losing it is painful. The furniture maker guilds of Europe went through this as their respected craft was debased by factories and automation, but we still make furniture today. Photography has been democratized to an astonishing degree, but it exists just like it did it the past, only in much greater quantity. And that is what bores us. Our icons have lost their luster and we feel adrift and unsure. For the professionals it is a difficult time. For the rest of us it is the opposite.

I’ve commented before on the Harvey Wang book cited by John. It’s by no means a comprehensive tome, but rather is a delightful little book that includes some very interesting commentary by various photographers and other important folks in the field concerning their perspectives on the digital evolution. And some nice portraits of each interviewee, too.

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