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Friday, 16 December 2022


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It's going down, because everything is relative and video is going up exponentially.

What communications do, whether it is writing, video, photography or something else, is take up attention, which is time. More time spent on video means less time spent on other means of expression.

At the same time, there's more of it (photography) than ever before. It's just not really better than ever before. And it's less prominent than before, at least as a whole. That's partly linked to the demise of print media and the rise of the web.

Yes, it is. Both still and video. Because now that everybody can do it -- see Tik Tok -- its mystery is slipping away. It's been gone for a while with still photography. Still photography's mojo began early, when people could first get actual, accurate images of themselves that weren't an artist's interpretation, and that was an amazing thing. It got another shot when the photo-papers developed, and then with coverage of WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, when photographers were seen as heroic figures who risked their lives to get their images and could change the way the world worked (the napalmed girl in Vietnam; the burning monk.) And then, I swear to God this is the case, it got perhaps its biggest shot when the 1966 David Hemmings film "Blowup" came out with the hero swanning around London in a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II convertible, in between taking fashion photos of giggling nude models against endless seamless paper rolls. I have no idea what the photography life was really like back then -- maybe Kirk Tuck would have some experience with this -- but that really ignited photography, with every hipster on campus walking around with a Leica or Nikon. Now we're mostly seen as nerds in black clothes as adjuncts to movie stars and brides, or dusty old landscape photographers with the emphasis on "old," or, in London, as probably pederasts. The public glow is gone -- we're no longer celebrities -- but the art continues.

"Millenial" here born mid 90s and in both lines.
In general it doesn't seem that prestigious nowadays, as it has been widespread media. In my personal circles I was thinking how a lot of my snapshots are shared around. In a way that isn't fine art, with property rights or prestige in mind.
I participate in both a camera club and a cultural network. The latter takes student photographers for assignments and I was sitting with the board as they decided. Interestingly being a film photographer was seen very well. That is better than 2008-10.

Images certainly have status due to the high rate of publication and consumption. I don't think a particular image could go viral if images in general didn't have some level of status to begin with. But mass consumers of images don't necessarily equate the image with photography like we do, the image is just something that is "there" without a thought about its creation. Prestige is probably limited to the high end collector market. The craft of photography, nah, it's on the path of wet-plate, and will be practiced by a few individuals in the future as a niche hobby. Kinda like the blacksmith at a historical attraction showing how things used to be done.

I think "status" goes down when literally anyone can exhibit their photography, good or bad. When I was shooting in the '70s, it was a goal to get one of your photos in print... anywhere. One wanted to feel validated, but of course there were fewer places to be "in print", but the goal was still something to aspire to.

Now anyone with a phone is posting minutiae like their lunch, so where's the vetting or earned status?

My guess: about the same.

It could just be my age (56), but it feels like art in general is losing its mojo, and photography is part of that. I keep wondering where the new digital master photographers are (not the old master film photographers who now shoot digital). Perhaps the only thing that will save art is the return of good editors and curators, people to sort through the pile so we don't have to.

I'm actually looking forward to the new Avatar, though. Not high art perhaps, but solid entertainment and needed social messaging, and very good digital imagery.

I fear it's going down, getting buried by social media, and AI image correction/generation.

Consider the heyday of the photo magazine. Look. Life. Time. National Geographic. Many more, but those ones are just off the top of my head. My older relatives had a stack of such magazines. What do kids see now? Instagram. Pfft! Except I think even that is passe now, replaced by Tiktok or something even newer.

And AI. Grrr. The whole computational photography thing makes me grind my teeth. I don't want to see a "photograph" where one computer chose the settings, and another changed the image to be 'perfect' according to a bunch of rules programmed into it. All the human did was hold the camera and press the shutter button; where's the creativity in that?

Prestige definitely going down. Status probably going up with pure numbers. Some people don’t know, or bother, to write anymore. They just post a picture, usually a crappy one, or a video (even more crappy).

Richard Alan Fox's Featured Comment sums up one aspect well. We, the vast hoards, like taking and sharing photographs.

Now where does that put photographers, photojournalists and "art" photographers? Not a rhetorical question. I have no idea.

Who was it that said "familiarity breeds contempt"? We are past familiarity.

Society nowadays is mainly a consumer of impact and, without words, sounds and movement, photography is limited and cannot compete against video for the dulled, overtired eyes of the viewers. Even where it still has some following, the need for impact has led to eye-damaging abuse of filters, oversharpening and ultrasaturation. If your local landscape don’t look like Rivendell or the Pass of Karadras nobody will look at your dull pictures. Impact, that’s all is required today and photography doesn’t have it.

The perception of photography definitely has changed - ubiquitious food and cat pictures cater for the needs of many, elaborate works from both camera and postprocessing have their audience (albeit not a growing one).
Maybe it's a bit like meat consumption: decades ago this was a scarce commodity, now meat is available for ridiculous prices in corresponding quality. And there's not a big crowd foregoing the cheap thrill in favour of rare but honest quality...

Photography has its place in the visual arts and continues to develop its ways of expression there. As photographers we can be part of this progress.

Did photography ever have mass appeal mojo? I think folks have always appreciated a photograph that documented a historic moment, event or happening. Some also may admire high end professional portraiture as seen on the cover of magazines taken by legends such as Annie Leibovitz.

Most people throughout the last century have always wanted the complication of personal photography to be handled behind the scenes. They shot with simple devices such as Brownies, Instamatics, Polaroids, and disposable, preloaded plastic lens cameras. The film or in case of the latter were dropped off for processing. The phone is the current go to replacement for the earlier devices. Those who owned darkrooms and high end cameras as well as those who are proficient with digital files, Photoshop and printing have always been rare birds.

Lastly I personally wonder if there will be any new photography legends such as the famous masters of the last century?

I think photography is taken for granted because it is now an everyday form of communication. As an art form it seems to be holding its own for the moment.

Smartphone photography is part of a visual/pictorial communication approach that can be seen everywhere…even on the “cash register” at McDonalds. The register is a touch screen with pictures on it. The cashier taps a “button” with a picture of a Filet-O-Fish sandwich on it. For the moment the words Filet-O-Fish still appear as a caption but eventually I can see this button changing to just a picture of a fish.

The general public needs convenience and portability for this communication and the automation of computational smartphone photography provides this is a pocketable device that produces good results on screen. I suppose it’s possible for the public’s infatuation with and use of smartphones to change over time (Pew Research says 95% of folks under 50 now have a smartphone) but the public will always see traditional, dedicated cameras as a complex solution to a seemingly simple problem.

It seems that the general public now has no more interest in the original of a photograph than the origin of a word and they are happy to snap away and pour all their images into a national or global database because they use those images every day to communicate.

The dedicated camera is a great tool and it will continue for as long as professionals/artists need it. I suppose that at some point, far in the future, we may only find large, professionally made photographs hanging with paintings in galleries and museums and I guess I can deal with that…if I’m still around. Art always finds a way.

Status is dead. Photography lives!

As art, conceptual artists seemed to have commandeered photography, turning it into just another graphic means of display. We have an annual photographic festival in our city and the conceptual artists with their impenetrable art speak presentations, have displaced what many of us knew as photography, with its movements like the "New Topographics, the British documentary style in the Killip genre and the French humanists. Photographers dealing with "strait" photography have been mostly thrown out of the exhibition circuit.

Moving up from the bottom,the cell phone and perhaps the ease of making good photographs with dedicated digital cameras, has rendered the photograph a throwaway item to be quickly consumed and forgotten.

Finally the photographer is no longer a glamorous figure in popular culture like the Vietnam war photographers or the fictitious photographer in "Blow Up", inspired I believe by David Bailey.

I have been involved with photography for over 50 years, privately and professionally, and this is how I view photography today:
if it's just a matter of the total amount of photos produced per unit of time, then photography has increased considerably, but most photos consist only of the accounting "who, when, where."
The significance of content beyond that, especially when it comes to social and political context, has diminished enormously. And the artistic and social status of the photographer, the personal esteem as a creator of images, has gone steeply downhill.
Photography has lost its former, fascinating magic.
Photography has now become as natural and casual as the weather, and photographers are no longer demigods over storms and rain.

John Camp's post get it right.
But it's relative. If you came to photography later than the era he describes, the fall off in mojo wont seem so obvious.

I like to look at the works of the old masters of film photography in all formats. Glass plates as well. Black and white in particular. The time required, craftsmanship and talent was exceptional. Life and technology evolve to change most everything and we often have little choice is adapting. Eventually, the changes become part of our everyday existence and we barely notice them any longer. Phototography is no different. My kids who are now young adults do not look at photographs as I do. How could they? There was always the internet, phones, social media and AI in their world. For me....I would not shed a tear if the internet disappeared tomorrow. I would miss the writing and comments on this site.

What killed photography is not smartphone snapshots. It's video, and it has been video since, I dunno, around the Vietnam war? And of course, smartphones give you video too. So in terms of the national story, the status has gone down.

Locally, I think the status has gone up. It used to be that just about every middle class parent would get a camera to follow their kids around with. Now, they all have smartphones already, so they don't. One time, I captured some shots with a Nikon Z and 85mm 1.8 of my kid and a neighbor kid, and sent them over. They took notice. Now, I am not that serious a photographer. But having a serious camera puts me head and shoulders above the neighbors.

Hmm. I wonder if things are about to go in a circle. I recently photographed a popular post-punk musician at a venue, and in recent years I would have struggled to get interesting shots as there would have been at least two or three other people shooting away on the latest DSLRs with little regard for other camera users. On this occasion I was the only person using a "proper camera" (for want of a better description) and the rest of the audience were most helpful in staying out of my way or even pushing me to the front to enable me to get better shots. I suspect that now those DSLRs are collecting dust in cupboards or closets, having been replaced by phones, so perhaps as we say in the UK, "What goes around, comes around." Am I being unduly optimistic . . . time will tell!

Who cares?

Photography lost its mojo in 1972 when LIFE Magazine folded.

Really, only photographers give a crap about photography. No one else really ever thinks about photography as photography. Most people just think snapshot!

As a photographer who thinks about photography, I don't really worry about the mojo of photography. Whether or not photography has mojo has ZERO impact on my interest or my practice. I do what I do because I use it to explore my place in this world and it also happens to be the way I earn my living. Obsession is the only way to build a body of work, and people who are obsessed generally don't care if what they're doing makes any sense.

My photographs are important to me, and maybe a few other people who are kind enough to say it matters to them too. Other than that, if I'm not already dead when I retire, I'll show my life's work to some people who also think about photography. And if they like what I do, they can show it to more people who think about photography. Or about .000001% of the population that have the capacity to care about anything outside of themselves.

At this point, hasn't everything but social media and conspiracy theories lost their collective mojo? And as much as social media relies on images to survive, photographs are basically worthless in their ubiquity.

Now, ask me if I care. Pretending that you did, my answer is: NO! I don't worry about the things I have no control over, and I won't stop doing something I enjoy just because it doesn't really matter much to the vast majority of people. I do what I do because I love to do it.

[From a guy who doesn't care, that sounded kinda bitter. If you'll pardon me for saying so. --Mike]

It's a pretty vaguely worded riddle- one that can be successfully argued any way ya choose.

So basically- what kirk said...

I've just come back from photographing a Cascade forest canyon I first saw in 1987. It was a magnificent place, and I loved being there and trying to capture its qualities in images. This time, though, I was photographing the forest after an intense fire had completely destroyed it. It may grow back but will take centuries. So the older photos are now a record of a special place that no longer exists. Over time, I expect their value will grow, partly because the subject is gone. I believe the same will be true for other work, that its value as photographs will change as our society sees its value as a record--like Atget's photos of Paris, once set out for the trash, now beloved icons of modern Parisians.

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