11 January 2008

Next Evolution of Photography

NPR (National Public Radio), had an interesting piece today that consisted of an interview by noted National Geographic photographer, Sam Abell. You can listen to a mp3 version of this 35 minute interview by clicking => HERE. RealPlayer or MediaPlayer will suffice. Mr. Abell is in Nevada to be the keynote speaker at Ceasars Palace for the "An Evening with CLASS! , 2008", in support of a fundraiser for a high school organization. In the KNPR interview, he talks about many subjects of interest. In an answer to a listener's question regarding post-processing software, he reveals that he is strictly a film photographer and does not use digital software to alter any of his photos other than to create digital reproductions of them. He has a deliberate philosophy regarding his craft, but a rather dismal prospect on the future of photography and photographers. It would seem he believes this may be a dying profession, going the way of the cassette tape, or at least that's my opinion of his remarks.

I too have began to wonder about the business of photography as we know it. Camera technologies has been in a perpetual evolutionary state since the camera obscura and the daguerreotype. The advent of multiple exposure possibilities from emulsion coated a paper or plastic rolled substrate (a roll of film) instead of a single "one shot at a time" plate was seen as an advancement. Instant film by Polaroid was seen an advancement, just as the digital censor was viewed as an advancement. Photo purists have already began to lament the onslaught of the digital age, but Abell comments that the art and craft of the photography is dying much faster than what we might imagine. He discusses the advent of videography as a new tool that is quickly gaining ground as the preferred method of still capture. Abell recounts how it once took him 14 months to "get the shot" on a particular shoot for which he was charged. This sort of dedication would be absurd today. No longer is there a need to wait for the right moment. Video of the same scene allows the ability to become more selective with image capture.

I recall reading the Helmut Newton autobiography where he discusses taking maybe 10 images for an entire shoot. It was either in that book or the HBO documentary "Helmut by June". Now photogs will use a digital SLR with a huge CF card from which they can select the best image from amongst a choice of hundreds or even thousands. It would appear that the new age of photographers, or rather videographers will not even need to do that. The ability to record video footage and then select the choice still image reduces the propensity to pull a muscle in your trigger finger from releasing a shutter a million times for every shoot. Is this really the future of photography? How much time do we have left before the art of fact SLR becomes an artifact SLR? Photojounalists will feel the impact much more than the photo artist, but is it simply a matter of time?
The need for the print will still persist for long times to come. People still want to hang a picture on the wall. The question remains with regard to how the image capture will produce it. Since photography is constantly evolving, can videography be a welcomed advancement? It is the print that is most important, which is what photogs strive to produce. We want to show our interpretation of the perfectly exposed print. That's why we do it. We want as many people as possible to see our prints. Therefore can it be said that serving the needs of the print outweighs the needs of the photographer? I know what I would argue, but then again, my bias may disallow a more objective perspective.

2 comments:

Unbearable Lightness said...

The idea of using video to get a still capture is fascinating. What kind of quality can you expect from that? If the quality is there, I'd love to have someone try it with me. As a model, it opens all kinds of possibilities! Kind of like going from posing for a painter (hours frozen in one position) to posing for a photographer.

TLNeasley said...

The quality is getting better with it. Right now its mainly a photojournalism thing where image quality isn't as important since there is no such thing as quality on newsprint. National Geographic and the like are probably the frontrunners in pushing the better quality images and getting prices pushed down. You can likely still get some good capture depending on the vidcam you use now.

My problem with it is that, I am coming in on the last era of film and am just getting used to digital. Now we are starting a new genre, again? At least give me 5 or 6 years with the dSLR!