Camera Stuff. Traditional photography has been transformed. You can still do it any way you want but....

I traveled around Austin and across the country this week and I can truthfully say that, based on my current observations , coupled with our knowledge of the trends of the last two years,  the age of traditional photography as we knew it in the film days, and in the transitional days of the last decade, have come to an end. The ever present, single use cameras that were once part and parcel of every mom's, hipster's and gray-haired enthusiast's daily wardrobes have largely vanished from public sight
almost overnight like pay phone booths and DVDs.

It's not just that people in every walk of life have traded in their Nikons, Canons and random other dedicated, interchangeable lens cameras for the latest iPhones or Android phones, with their very precocious, built-in video/photo cameras rather, the great majority have given up the traditional pursuit of the traditional image. The act of taking an image with a large, single lens reflex camera seems as dated, in our current culture, as making a career out of painting in an abstract expressionist style.

We've truly entered the age of photographic minimalism, driven by the evolved informality of the share culture of web as represented by posted pictographic mini-conversations (a relatively scattered activity; at times not much more than a visual grunt ). The sharing is not the same as a traditional presentation in that now the photographs are part of a seemingly endless stream of good and bad imagery. A stream of unconsciousness, reflexively recharged ad infinitum.

Not only has the hardware used to create the images profoundly changed but with the prevailing subject matter becoming ever more restricted and self-referential, and the approach to (interpretation of) that content being shed of substance and meaningful context at a surprising rate as our culture has completely morphed our understanding of photographs from icons and sign posts to something as readily consumable as coffee. Which, coincidentally, is a large part of what gets photographed.

Photography has also moved from a visual dialog about things external to the artist and has become almost completely and exclusively about the artist. The selfie being one of the most obvious examples of encroaching and pandemic narcissism available in the entire history of mental health.

What used to be a symbol of one's dedication to imaging as a passion (the conventional camera) has become an almost embarrassing relic that instantly pegs one as being of a certain generation and mindset as surely as wearing a (non-smart, or is it "unsmart") wristwatch that merely tells time --- or ordering drip coffee as opposed to french pressse or espresso based coffee. The larger camera, festooned with a long, fast zoom lens, is as expressive, and potentially embarrassing a symbol (in today's pyramid of personal, wearables) of one's obsolescence as sporting a Palm Pilot or listening to music CDs on a Sony Walkman CD player.  The world, with a more or less anemic, quasi-cathartic shrug just moved on and this complete transition happened in the space of about two years. Tops. The eery thing is that all this seemed to creep up on us but we would have seen it coming if we'd only been paying attention.

I wondered why I felt the need to do my purge of all the extraneous cameras I'd built up, like calluses, over the years just a few months ago. I wondered the same thing when Michael Johnston started the process of shedding his camera collecting surplus all of a sudden and just a few weeks ago. Were these episodes the result of coming to some sort of subliminal tipping point in our collective psyches?
In a flash years of rationalization and earnest resolve re-directed in a reaction to an unseen but no less real shift of priorities and positions, styles and fashions.

For the first time in the month after the purge I never really felt a sense of loss for the equipment I had worked and researched so hard to accrue. All those cameras represented transitional tools without much future---even though they can be used in the same way they were always used, for years to come. The reality is that the precious stuff we tried to translate into substantive imagery missed the boat like paisley patterns surrendering to the next fashion wave.

Now I've left myself with two scaled down systems that each represent something different. I think our small, mirrorless camera system were a dodge on our part to try and delay a change that I now think is inevitable. The camera as accessory, as fashion, as daily seeing tool is completely over. We can continue to carry them and think about how much we need discrete, single use imaging tools but deep down the true, underlying knowledge has soaked in and we know that there's no vibrant cultural market for the images that used to be more about mastery than anything else. There's no reason to be "always ready" for the decisive moment if all moments are equally decisive and indecisive. If we're doing nothing more with the images than feeding the firehose that's draining the creative reservoir while saturating the ground our eyes walk on with homogenous product then really, what's the point?

I look at the Nikon cameras that I have in the studio. There are two. One is a D810 and it's a high resolution tool that we bring out to give clients the best technical quality we can bring to bear for a reasonable investment. The D610 is much the same but at a lower resolution tier that's more practical for more jobs. We use both of the cameras to produce video for clients as well. Neither camera is a sexy choice. Neither one emulates the newly trendy rangefinder design of decades past. Neither is whimsically small and compact. They aren't exciting to shoot. They are rudimentary tools and that's the way I see them now.

The Olympus cameras I own are, I think, a last gasp attempt to keep myself rooted in the type of photography that seemed to me to be different from the bifurcated imaging universe I see today; the current milieu divided between images done for money (Nikon) and images done as consumable and wholly narcissistic expressions (iPhones). To me the smaller, mirrorless cameras represent the Leicas we carried in leisure moments and during the shoots to which we brought the big medium format cameras to bear. The smaller cameras resonate with me and my generation because they are a meme and a psychological link to the cameras and photo styles of people whose work and celebrity we both appreciated and envied. The Robert Franks, Alex Webbs, Susan Meisales's, Sebastiao Salgados and so many others who made photography seem glamorous, thought provoking and elite.

We've moved, as a society, from a time when photography was a privileged form of expression--- from people who seemed to be blends of artist and mechanic. They knew the language and they knew how to make the lenses and rangefinders and meters do their bidding in the service of their creation. The turning points for everything in our photographic world came when presentation (in galleries, magazines, portfolios and books) was replaced by the self-involved narrative on the web--- in which the photographer is also actor and subject and a participant in his own constructions. And in many instances, the sole interested spectator.

In the end analysis will probably show that once something that was at one time difficult to do, difficult to present, and difficult to parse, becomes ubiquitous and all encompassing, and as simple as proletariat language, it loses its power in one sense and the power is replaced in a  different way. Now instead of a single image speaking to an attentive audience we have art as capacitor charging up with millions and millions of amazingly similar images until the concentration of images creates a universal reference current of that subject and individual interpretations are completely lost in the inertia to the median.

How else to explain the enormous drop in cameras sales? The drop in enrollment in photography courses? The drop in the use of commissioned images? The general malaise among hobbyists and enthusiasts? The ebb of students from any workshop that's not strictly vocational in service to the craft?

We'll all protest that I've misinterpreted this dip in the rhythm of traditional photography; and it may be that we are just waiting for it to be reinvented in some new way. I'd love for this to happen if it's true. But I think the days of the precious show of landscapes in a stark gallery with white walls all around and appreciative audiences wondering from well crafted print to well crafted print began to die the moment Flickr and the rest of the photo sharing sites were brought forth and flung freely to the masses. Pandora learned the hard way that once the box was open we were never going to go in reverse.

I still go to shows but it's more a reflection of my generational status. Many times the audiences at even the most important shows seem like conventions of men over 50. The world has moved on, we just like to see if we can sense the addictive residue of our time on the walls.

All this rambling doesn't mean for a second that we can't enjoy taking photographs for ourselves. It doesn't even mean that we can no longer create images for money, but it does mean that everything has changed and our culture is shifting. The screen is in peoples' hands now. The images are tiny. Because they are tiny they are much more fun if they are kinetic---always moving. That's where the ads are going and that's where the content is going and no matter how you pitch it the way we absorb images has changed and that makes imaging itself change.

This is neither bad nor good in an existential sense but I can't help remembering that every generation of product development is not aimed at making the consumer happier; it is aimed at making the product itself more economical to put together, less costly to ship, easier to repair  (or replace) and more indispensable. In the same way content is driven in the same direction. How do you make it easier to construct? More appealing to larger demographics? Easier and faster to deliver? And, much more profitable; even if that means millions paying pennies rather than hundreds paying real money?

The current thought poem for the culture of money and art is that rather than make one great thing that shows for a limited amount of time we can manipulate human curiosity by making many, many lesser productions and create a pipeline of continual release that keeps the curious and trend seeking constantly at the trough. That's the current and future middle of the Bell Curve of imaging today.

Is it any wonder that we're all a bit lost about the craft we loved so much?

I love the process. I won't stop. I'll keep shooting and printing even if I'm the only audience left but that doesn't keep me from being sad about what I think we're losing. Flip that around though and a different generation might see the shift as a gift. A plus. A natural part of the evolution cycle.

This may be true but I'm pretty certain that the current camera makers aren't going to be very happy about it either.

Finally, in fine art like painting, every new movement, cenaclé and school pushed out the ones that came before it. Fauvism, Pointillism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop Art and Op Art. Now we're back to Neo-realism (which is manifesto-disguised representational art). Each shift led the successors to destroy the interest in and appreciation of their previous ancestors. No reason why this shift in photography will be any different.

Just re-read it and it seems cogent.

An interesting, tangential blog post from Thom Hogan: http://www.dslrbodies.com/newsviews/where-were-headed.html

A fun infographic that explains this better than I did: http://kindofnormal.com/truthfacts/2015/05/11


Michael Matthews said...


On the other hand, there are some who insist on making striking, singular, and meaningful images using iPhones.

Kirk Tuck said...

It may very well be the next great wave of photography. Or it may just be a great photographer at the controls.

Anonymous said...

I've read the blog for a long while now and I'm almost certain you are right. That doesn't make me less sad at the passing.

Dave Jenkins said...

Well. . . maybe. I don't question your abilities as an observer and philosopher of the photographic scene.

As far as the equipment divestment issues you mentioned, I think you jusst came to the conclusion that you had obtained the best tools for the work you do, and the only reason to keep other stuff was simple nostalgia. In Mike's case, he realized that his Fuji system was all he needed to do the things he wanted to do, and all the other stuff was just taking up space and tieing up money.

I also have all the working gear I need, so I probably won't be buying anything else anytime soon. I feed my nostalgia lust with an Autocord TLR and a pair of Olympus OMs.

Meanwhile, with all the amateurs doing their happy-snaps with their smartphones, things may be a little easier for professionals to make a living in this current, diminished market.

John Krumm said...

If feels a little less so if you live in a tourist town. On a big trip people still often feel compelled to bring along a dedicated camera, even if they use the phone more. But even that is changing.

I know I can use my phone to make good images at sort of ok quality, but it's no fun for me to hold and shoot, and there's no viewfinder. Perhaps in 20 years (likely less) the digital camera shooter will seem just as antiquated as film shooters, I don't know, but people always need sensible form for some types of work. A hammer is a hammer, a camera is a camera. A phone can take a picture and perhaps even drive a small nail into cork, but it has limits in its form.

Mike Rosiak said...

My 2 cents:

Rembrandt painted. People still are painting. Acrylic is a new option relative to oil, but it's still painting.

The print is the thing that gets framed and hung. Whether Talbot's calotype, or 180 years later today's inkjet pigment print, it's still a printed photograph. To be framed and hung, if one is so inclined.

Greytourist said...

Kirk, read Ming Thein's recent "Photographic Detox" post-pair for another take on the Phonecam.
He loves working skillfully with the right tools when it's appropriate, but he brings the same skill and eye to his iPhone, and he uses it for anything but narcissistic documentation. His point, I think, is quite valid - he doesn't mind using an automatic camera at all, if it's well thought out and doesn't get in his way. The iPhone, in his opinion, is the result of some very serious thinking about what the 21st century imaging device does and what sort of UI is needed for a device that is far advanced from the rudimentariness of DSLRs and mirrorless ILCs. It's what the traditional manufacturers are afraid to attempt, because their market of 50-somethings won't stand for it. Or so they think.
All those pictures on those posts, those fabulously composed and expertly processed images, were taken with an iPhone with a selected auto-ISO range.
Look at them and tell me that we are losing the ability to look outwards because of the technology we have at our command.
Look at them and understand why Apple is investing so much in imaging device research. It's because you don't need a brick bristling with buttons to bring back the bacon. But you do need to approach the process of imaging in a fundamentally new way.
And you need to be good at seeing, and want to be good at seeing. That will never change.

Kirk Tuck said...

I'm speaking in macro trends not the exceptions. Yes, we can do traditional images with new tools but the visual dialogue has changed regardless of the tools. It may not have changed for you and me but the rest of the broad market is seeking a new and different way of working with photos. Ming' detox is exactly what I described in an earlier column about the obsession of techno-cartographers using thei tools only to prove their mastery of a skill set not in the production of heart felt work. While Ming is technically proficient I can rarel tell the difference between his work with a d810 and a phone since the sharing is all web based. Too bad it's not easy for all of us to see his work in a gallery where the differentiations might be more obvious. His use of the phone camera is gratuitous since the tool doesn't seem to effect his vision. But I think it's because his embrace of working methodologies straddles the two generations and he has a foot in both camp and his true vision as an artist in neither. But that doesn't mean I discount his work. I'd be interested in his reaction to what I wrote.

Kirk Tuck said...

Should read "techno-crat-graphers"

john gee said...

as the song goes....
video killed the radio star

me .. 78's, 45's, tape ,cassette, 8 track, cd, still designing bass guitar amps & fixin' shed loads of tube amps.
I think audio is ahead of the photog. curve. In England we now have music hubs for schools et al.
"just sayin'"

picture taking will group again...as people do!


Paul said...

You can also now get phone apps that assist with composition e.g. camera51
which has composition assisting features.
"If you’re not sure how a scene should be framed, the app will analyze it for you and suggest a composition that takes subjects and lines into consideration"

Nick Davis said...

An unduly pessimistic post, Kirk, and I'm a pessimist by nature! I think photography is simply going back to what it always was for most of the 20th century, a minority interest. Camera manufacturers have enjoyed a bonanza for the last ten years with people engaging in an endless cycle of upgrades. That is now over, so a smaller market inevitably means higher prices for dedicated cameras, which will probably become a luxury item once more, just as they were for most of the 20th century. Photography courses are declining because it is no longer a viable way to earn a living for the majority. Call me a dinosaur if you like, but vision will win out. Marshall McLuhan said something similar to your post in the 1950s with "the medium is the message." As ever, thanks for an interesting and perceptive post.

amolitor said...

I really liked the paragraph about the art capacitor.

It's not so much about gear and whatnot as it is about where photography fits into the culture, about how people see photos and, as a consequence, how they see for instance My Photos.

My take is that photography is splitting in to multiple things.

We have the vast stream of user generated photos, the selfies, the lattes, and so on. But we also have things that I think are perceived in fundamentally different ways:

Senior sessions, baby sessions, weddings, etc. All that slick commodity photography.

Magazines etc. News? Paparazzi? There's some overlap with the selfie stream but I think people relate to photos in printed publications in a fundamentally different way.

Art? Maybe. The market for art photography has never been big. If it's vanished entirely it's going to take a little while to notice.

Photography for photographers. Ming Thein is my current best example of this. In this age of sharing we've seen a whole genre arise of photographs taken by photographers for photographers. They are largely empty exercises in form and style, a sort of ritual demonstration of certain obscure skills. This sort of thing was always, I suppose, present in camera clubs, but flickr etc have turned it into what seems to be the dominant form. It's not, the selfie stream is, but as photographers it tends to be what we notice most.

There are surely others.

It's going to be an interesting could years. The transition had happened, yes, but we've only begun to sort through the wreckage and make sense of it.

Michael Comeau said...

One thing I've noticed in NYC book stores is that the photography sections are getting smaller and smaller.

However, galleries here seem to attract plenty of young people, even for older artists.

greytourist said...

I'd be interested in Ming's reaction as well. I appreciate his work, but there is a coldness and distance to it that is both intentional and offputting. By his own admission somewhat of an Aspergian view. I agree with you, though, that he is still searching for his own vision.

I do understand and agree with you that because of the ease of snapping and sharing with a phone, photography has become far more about conversation than book-writing, and the extreme ease of phonecam photography has enabled even gossip and blather to be visually aided.

A brighter side of phonecam photography may be that it binds one more closely to one's tribe and proclaims one's own existence, essential in this age of the anonymous billions. Except that now one's tribe is spread across the country or even the planet.

rexdeaver said...

The skill of photography has never depended on the tools, but how to use them to shape light into images. Those skills are still necessary and in demand. The difference I see is that people demand an immediacy that many (older?) photographers are unwilling or unable to provide.

The print, as the standard means of consuming photography, is dead. Gallery prints will continue to be viable -- until wall-sized, battery powered, ultra-thin displays come down in price.

Young photographers are making their living with a shoot-and-share business model, and a hybrid photo + video product set.

They don't spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment that is overkill for the vast majority of their work. When they need big guns, they rent them.

These are just a few of the many changes that don't change the value of photography, but they do change some -- not all -- of the skill set necessary to practice it as a profession.

Cary Seipp said...

I'm sure there have always been hordes of amateurs taking derivative, mediocre work, the only difference now is that we are exposed to it in ways that were never possible before.

I actually think this may explain the recent collapse of amateur photography: after enthusiastically piling into the hobby and sharing their work online, amateurs have received a brutal, dispiriting education in just how uncreative their work really is. And I include myself in this as an amateur producer of mediocre work! You reach a certain point where the similarity of your work to everyone else's and the lack of interest in your work become impossible to ignore, at which point you ask yourself, why do I bother?

I still do it because I enjoy the process and the results, and I have a small community of friends and family who are interested in my work. That is enough for me but I'm certainly no longer under any illusions that my work is going to stand out from the crowd, and for many that probably isn't enough.

Michael Matthews said...

Has the backlash begun?


Max Rottersman said...

The other day I was at Starbucks with a friend (https://www.flickr.com/photos/maxotics/17313557378/ taken during this conversation). I mentioned what Kirk had said in an earlier post, that increasing expectations of digital marketing would necessitate using the highest resolution cameras available. I pointed to a Starbucks advert-canvas where the print (wording) was obviously sharper than the photo of the drink. He wanted to know the name of the blog and wrote it down. I just hope he doesn't read this post ;)

Seriously, like all Art, photography is difficult to assess contemporaneously. It takes time. I definitely see a difference between my Father's photos in medium format and those in 35mm. At the time, medium format was also considered overkill and weird.

My kids will also eventually notice the difference between my images shot full-frame and those on an cell-phone. I think the relevance to all this cell phone photography is not that it dilutes people's interest in photography, but it distracts people away from what is going on today in serious photography. Every generation has similar technical distractions.

Finally, in the photo above. I explained to Michael how it was difficult, even with the best cameras, to get detail from high dynamic lighting. Kirk has also written about this with the D810! As great as the camera is, you can't get that kind of DR in a small pocket-able camera.

To anyone who thinks photography is dead, I point them to this blog, just as a friend pointed it out to me!

David Corney said...

Smart phones have replaced the 110 and Kodak Instamatics. The difference today is that the results are indeed instant and visible for all to see. I don't think that means the end of the DSLR/EVF camera, just as 110 never replaced 35mm (or medium format).

For me, the evolution is in the speed and ease with which the results can be delivered. Today I can take a photograph and process it in my hotel room. No need to take over and black out the bathroom for a night.

I still want to the control and quality a higher end camera offers, but I don't see that being in conflict with a photograph I take on my phone and post to Facebook.

Paul said...

A cheery start to the morning. So photography is dead and is being replaced by whatever Apple or Samsung decide we have to have. Somehow I think not. I'm in the process of scanning my film archive, just made it to 1987, and I am enjoying what I am finding. I've been emailing friends with old photos and enjoying the chats that have followed. What has become very apparent is that I shot in a more considered way and enjoyed the craft of photography then. I didn't strangely lust after equipment then as my cameras and lenses remained static until I switched to digital. I'm seriously thinking of going back to film.

As to whether photography is dead, well I don't care what anyone else thinks, I'm still doing it and enjoying it and that is all that matters.

Mike Rosiak said...

Thinking about what Nick Davis said: "Camera manufacturers have enjoyed a bonanza for the last ten years with people engaging in an endless cycle of upgrades"

I got my first 35mm camera in 1963, a rangefinder style. In 1983 I upgraded to an SLR with a single good-enough zoom. Jumped into digital in 2001, and have gone through TWELVE cameras since then.

Kirk Tuck said...

Guys. Read more carefully. I don't contend that the change is just about the gear. It's also (and more importantly) about the concept of promiscuous sharing and lack of editing and ubiquity. Doesn't matter if it's a phone or a Deardorf the reality is that people are INGESTING photography in a different way and for different reasons than ever before. THAT'S WHERE THE SHIFT IS!!! And it's the shift that's ending our traditional vision of photography and replacing it with something different. This is not about the gear as culprit.

Kirk Tuck said...

Thinking about it more I've got a better analogy. In the last century if you wanted to see and truly experience a movie you went into a giant room with lots of strangers and sat in the dark and watched something 60 feet wide and 20 something feet tall. Even the sound was enormous. If you wanted to see the movie again you paid again. But the important part, after the content, was presentation and they way you experienced the movie. It's different from watching a movie on a TV or a small cellphone screen. It's not as riveting. It's not as strong a primary focus. It's changed. As TV is the perfect analogy for the digital sharing age as it is a relentless stream of mostly very banal content whose overriding mission is to be continuous. To paralyze its audience into lethargy and laziness in order to sell them more needless crap. Movies on TV. Images on the web.

Old Gray Roy said...


Early in your blog you cited the change in photo subject, diminution of correspondence, and inferred the lessening of attention span exacerbated by the hit-and-run nature of the web. That seems to me what I read, and to which I agree. Since I am physically old and can no longer go fast at much of anything I am far more an observer than a doer and have become somewhat adept at watching the world streak by at ever-increasing speeds. If (when?) the camera makers adopt the communication capabilities of such as Apple there may be a swing toward use of the high quality imaging coupled to instant transfer of those images via the internet. Or, more likely, Apple may manufacture a high quality camera with iPhone attributes built in.

Just the mumblings of an elderly male who regularly reads what he considers to be the only erudite photo blog in the universe. Keep it going Kirk, we depend on you to stir the little gray cells into action every now and then.

Paul said...

But it is about the gear. It is now possible to build a digital camera into just about any digital device. That means cameras become ubiquitous, therefore, by extension the photograph becomes commonplace, therefore it is not seen as something special, so therefore it becomes a disposable commodity. So the development of equipment changed the way photography is treated.

It's the same with music, the original Sony Walkman was a disruptive technology that allowed people to listen to their music anywhere, the iPod took that to a new level where you could take all your music with you. Now on an iPhone you can stream music and you don't have to buy it. Now its free its disposable.

I have a first generation iPad, it works perfectly. But now Apple wants to sell me a new iPad and so they are gradually switching off the apps on it. From Monday I could no longer watch You Tube videos. What will go next week, or the week after that. Eventually it will stop working because someone decides that it is time for it to do so. What's this got to do with photography, well Apple, Google, Facebook etc have decided to change how we relate to media and they do that through either the sale of hardware or platforms. All they care about is that we keep signing up for the latest and greatest which means they can continually change how media is consumed.

Once upon a time a double page spread was a thing to behold, it made you proud of your work. Now I produce media that is seen largely on a mobile phone screen. It doesn't have the same satisfaction and I wonder why I pay a fortune for pro lenses and cameras when the audience won't see the quality. The real reason why the camera manufacturers are in trouble is that there isn't a need anymore for their products. The cheap camera in an iPhone will produce what 99% of the audience want. And if it isn't good enough it gets binned as it is ephemeral.

Can't remember who said it but "art is the residue of civilisations". The digital society is going to leave nothing behind because everything gets deleted or is rendered unreadable by obsolescence.

Gato said...

An interesting post from a guy who lugged a full-frame Nikon around Saratoga Springs just a few days ago.

I recently added a Nikon D800 to my kit of Panasonic m4/3 gear. It is capable of wonderful photos when used well, but I feel weird carrying it around, like an old-fart photo geek. Like I was wearing plaid bermuda shorts and black sox. (I'm almost 70 - I know about old fart.)

Still, the gear is the least important part. I don't know where photography is going, but I like your thinking, and the comments.

I especially like what amolitor said about "photography for photographers." I see far too much of this these days. I don't know whether my photography is good, bad or in-between, but I certainly hope it appeals on some level beyond photo technique.

Bill Danby said...

There are over 200,000 photos posted to Facebook every minute.

The world is filled with people sharing their pics (not photographs, pics) — where mostly-disinterested, semi-captive viewers respond with something like, "Isn't that nice" or, "Doesn't uncle George look tired."

And, don't forget, they're out there doing video too. Attached to helmets. Waterproof. On drones.

So what?

If it's your art, you're going to do it.

(It could be harder — we could be poets.)

amolitor said...

Photographs are ephemeral now. Twenty years ago they were permanent.

This is about Facebook and flickr and texting.

A photograph is much more like a remark made by a friend than it is like a written document (a book, a letter)

At least, this is the dominant mode. They older modes still exist, but to what degree and for how long?

Anonymous said...

Kirk, how do you think this affects the future of earning a living as a professional photographer?

If the general public consumes images as you rightly detail, it doesn't look good for us then!


Nigel said...

As TV is the perfect analogy for the digital sharing age as it is a relentless stream of mostly very banal content whose overriding mission is to be continuous

And yet it is also an artistic medium which in some respects - long form narrative in particular - has utterly superseded cinema (which is not entirely unknown for showing mostly banal content)

Max Rottersman said...

On, "As TV is the perfect analogy for the digital sharing age as it is a relentless stream of mostly very banal content whose overriding mission is to be continuous. To paralyze its audience into lethargy and laziness in order to sell them more needless crap" I never understand how anyone over the age of 30, with direct experience in the majority of other humans, sees it that way ;)

From the earliest circuses and vaudeville shows, MOST people WANT, how do I say, mindless entertainment. Death stares us all down. If it's crap. It's crap MOST people enjoy. who are we to judge them? TV can no more easily force ME to watch crap than I can force some person on the street to watch GATTACA say.

Kirk, how many people have you changed? How many clients have you converted to better photography? (which is different than their valuing what you did--I mean that from that time forward they sought out high-end stuff?)

I think this is why the conversation seems to keep moving away from your original point. I read it thinking, "Naw, traditional photography was never really high quality. I remember 20 years ago reading that a guy in the business said "Your local super-market does more business than just about all the camera stores in the country." Something like that. Your nostalgia may also be a bit misplaced. Most movie theaters didn't clean their equipment. Many films looked horrible for one reason or another. The popcorn was better though :)

One day you're want those cameras back. Most people won't understand that. Most of your readers will! We're a small part of the population and always will be. For my part, I read a post like this and I 100% completely relate to how you feel.

One final story. In my 20s I read an interview with Francois Truffaut. He said every film was a huge struggle to finance. It always went down to the last moment. I thought, if TRUFFAUT has to convince others to help him make a film EVERY TIME (no matter the success of the previous film) what hope for the rest of us?

Again, love your blog. Thanks for letting me vent!

Fenton Raines said...

With this article you have managed to terrify me with the impending doom and truthfulness of your words. You have also catapulted yourself(in my eyes) to being a profound thinker on this subject. The bitter pill you are dispensing would be easier to swallow if I thought it came from an idiot.

Kirk Tuck said...

Fenton, I'm pretty sure you wrote that I was smart and I am right. So, thank you.

Grant said...

Yes but. But. But, we are not far from the day when the average self-referential, flickr snapseed instagram facebooking guys n gals, who today are dong so much on small screens of phones and iPads and really not caring too much about quality, that same IC-munching Modern Millie and Mick are about to settle down in front of 32-inch or bigger 4k monitors, or even 4k televisions of ever-increasing size, and suddenly notice those pics and vids are so tiny on the screen at 1:1 that they are like, yesterday, and blowing them up to full screen is so much worse than it looked on the phone that it's not funny, and they're going to be peeved off. And then a few years after that it'll be 8k monitors and tv's making 1:1 even smaller from the snap-culture origins and its going to be interesting to see how they (we) respond to that. Right now our relationship as a culture to the quickie image share is a kind of orgiastic mayhem like finding your first sexual partner in your teens and it's wow look, look wow, wow wow. The trick when observing an immature discovery is to resist the temptation to trend it linearly into the future.

Old Gray Roy said...

Thank you Grant. Immature is a wonderful reference to what we are witnessing. Wish I had thought of it. But then, age does not confer wisdom, it only produces wrinkles. Have a great day.

Kirk Tuck said...

Sometimes, with age comes wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone....

No. The technology seems "new" to older people and very novel because it spans a smaller % of their lives. To the young people you reference the comfort with screens of all sizes comes from an entire life spent interacting with screens.

The idea that they will moan for higher quality in the future is based on our predilection for considering a well done print as a reference standard. They are not locked into this point of view. Technology will not go backwards to honor an aesthetic value that generation does not share.

amolitor said...

The argument that people will mature out if it makes no sense.

Do we start to think 'we should start preserving these one liners, quips, and jokes in a leather-bound journal' at parties, when we mature?

Nope. Well usually not. Oscar Wilde dead, after all.