I keep reading about the dwindling numbers of camera sales, year by year. Compared to 2010 camera sales in 2020 were down by over 90%. It makes me stop and think about the future of the business of photography (not the hobby!). We hear over and over again that the figures are misleading since they don't include the number of iPhones and other camera-centric smart phones get sold each year. And that's something I do agree with. There are certainly no fewer people taking photographs and, compared to the film days I'd say the difference in quantity of photos per capita in most societies is now off the charts.
It's interesting to see how photographs get used these days. One could make the argument that the use of photos hasn't changed much but that's not true at all. Yes, there are still glossy magazines being published and sold but their circulations have shrunk and the use of photographs is neither as extensive or as adventurous as it was in the past. Magazines are more an adjunct to the content that's already on websites. The printed materials serve as a feeder or teaser to the bulk of the creative content which is firmly planted on the web.
With the march toward video everything static print loses it's primacy because, well, the magazines can't do moving pictures. They can't change content at the drop of a hat (do people still have hats?). They have sunk costs in paper, ink and physical transportation, none of which impacts web content. Even on photo centric websites there is an inexorable march toward more and more video content. Just look at Digital Photo Review; five years ago it was surprising to see any video at all on their site. Now, they have over 1200 individual videos on YouTube and the number is growing quickly.
The flip side of the move away from print and to web imaging is that there are more venues to enjoy online than ever before. Some are actually pretty good.
While the future is always much harder to predict than the past I'm of the belief right now that we'll see a schism in the visual arts universe. All the topical content will continue to head to the web but we're going to see a resurgence in traditional, physical, gallery and print oriented work by artists. By the people who make stuff for the long haul; not just for a few hours of "like" harvesting on the usual sites.
This belief is fostered by the observational evidence that shows me, once again, that people are irrepressibly social and no matter how much they are told not to gather they continue to gather. There is so much pent up demand for human contact, socialization, and physically shared experiences that I think we'll see a gallery explosion that coincides with (and is enabled by) a majority of people in each country being vaccinated against Covid-19. Especially in the demographics that value the experience of shared art.
I'm a great believer in diffusion intuition. And by that I mean that we spend our time enmeshed in a culture and even if we don't have facts and direct observations to cite we absorb the zeitgeist of the time through some communal, and shared, thought process. A commonality of the momentum of desire which we come to understand emotionally long before we can tag it rationally.
Recently, as I walk in the city and observe the people shopping, meeting for dinner and drinks at outside venues, and even traipse through museums (while masked), I've also started to feel the overwhelming desire to make art that I can share via big prints. I'm asking people if they would feel comfortable coming into the studio again once I get the second dose of vaccine and wait the requisite number of days to manifest practical immunity. The responses are overwhelming. People want, badly, to reconnect, as long as it's face to face and not over a Zoom call.
My thoughts these days go back to various gallery print shows I've had at different times in my career and how much more poignant and impactful the work was for the audiences. How much the event of an opening solidified my exposure and connection with potential clients and also, on the other side, with potential subjects.
I know that I'm not alone in my thoughts about this. I hear it from many people with cameras and a passion for the art of photography all the time.
I'm now sourcing printers who can print very large. I'm preparing to shoot more and more with my highest resolution cameras to take advantage their efficacy for larger print sizes, and I'm working diligently on the more exacting post production of the small amount of work I can do right now. It all feels like momentum in a certain direction.
For every action (the lockdowns, the restrictions, the isolation) there is an equal and opposite reaction. Yes, we are patient enough to wait till things are safe(r) but at some point the reaction will be concentrated and powerful and we'll once again revert back to our basic need to be out in society, to be seen, to see people and to truly experience their work. Human nature rarely changes for long.
Work notes. It was a prodigious task but I cleaned the studio this weekend and sorted all the mess that had been piling up. I can once again set up a background and walk far enough back from it to make portraits in my style. I've been practicing with my long suffering family so that I feel comfortable working with the Leica SL2 and the Lumix S1R in a square format, in black and white, and with a selection of longer than average lenses. It was an exercise in overcoming entropy. Mostly emotional entropy connected with the restrictions of the moment.
We've cleaned up everything from the winter storm that marched through Texas. I've stopped tracking sand indoors from the sidewalks and walkways around the house. For those who were worried, our electric bill for the month was about $65. Groceries are back in stock everywhere around our neighborhood. We've got ready access to everything from fresh salmon to fresh blueberries.
As things return to normal there's a tendency to want everything to return to normal. Counting the days till I once again meet with the Moderna vaccine. Probably the middle of next week. It's progress and we are finally starting to feel the progress more viscerally. And that can only help our practice of making portraits.
No longer driven by the $$$, now driven by the desire to create.
Currently reading two books: How to Train a Wild Elephant and The Intelligent Investor.
Both, in their own way, are very beneficial.