this is a prime example of the machines with which we used to create profit
by doing photography. No AF, no autowind, no endless buffer, no high res EVF,
no cost free frames. But man! Could they convert vision to dollars!
and this was the work I liked to do with that camera.
One thing we learned in the lightning fast transition from film to digital in the commercial world is that big changes to a culture, a technology or the acceptance of a new paradigm aren't slow moving events. Kodak's best strategic brains assumed that they would have years of film dominance even as late as the early 2000's only to see global adaptation of digital cameras happen almost overnight. By the same token, if you had asked industry "experts" back in 2010 or even 2012 what the future trajectory of interchangeable lens digital cameras was you would have heard, almost uniformly, that the growth of the industry was at its infancy and it was all clear skies and big profits ahead. Ask several of the computer companies a couple of years ago about desktop computer sales and they would have predicted a steady replacement rhythm instead of the 25% drop in purchasing, year over year (except for Apple whose computer sales dropped by little over 1%....outlier?).
I would have thought that DP Review would have chugged along until at least a couple of big players took Samsung's cue and exited the interchangeable lens camera market altogether. But I guess declining sales, bloated and costly staffing and a failed strategy toward maintaining profitability snuck up much quicker and more decisively than any of us imagined.
Photography is being re-invented yet again. I swam with a technologist from a major, major technology superpower company this morning. After our workout we got into a long discussion about all the disruptions taking place across many markets. He makes a living strategizing about technology trends. His take is that we are at an inflection point not just for photography but across a number of industries and we are never going back to the way it was only a few years (or even months) ago. And he was predicting that the disruptions, changes and creations of new tools (Dall-e, Chatbots, ChatGBT, A.I., Machine learning) and so much more is starting to look like the massive shift that occurred with the 2007 introduction of Apple's iPhone. But on a more diverse and expanded group of technologies. And across an even bigger playing field.
It's wise to remember that pre-iPhone we needed computers to function in the work space. We needed laptops for mobile computing and communication. We needed stand alone cameras. We needed music players to enjoy our music with. We needed hulking big video cameras to make movies with. We needed ATMs to do our banking. We needed maps to get to new locations in our cars. We needed phones to call people and to do primitive texting. Think ahead to now and how our phones have wiped out the need for so many peripherals we once thought to be necessary and practical. And so many services (banking, shopping, etc.) have been de-peopled and streamlined.
I wrote a blog post while flying back from the NYC Photo Expo in 2013 (also shuttered as no longer relevant) about societal change in photography and parts of the post were prescient. Here's a link: The Graying of Photography. Read it. It might make more sense now.
But it's not as if we didn't have clues and telltales about the onrushing inflection point we seem to be in the middle of right now. Here are two subsequent articles, each written eight or nine years ago pointing to exactly what is unfolding right now:
I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that commercial ($$$) photography as we know it is going to cease to exist in a couple of years. No one will be monetizing the work being created at anywhere near the scale we were able to in the past. But a new understanding and market for photography will emerge. We just have to be open to understanding it and willing to take part in it. Or....we can keep copying work like Ansel Adams landscapes and Robert Frank street photography, and considering a paper print to be the gold standard, until we all die off and head to visual Valhalla to commiserate with the buggy whip makers, the floppy disk engineers and the people checking to see if anyone left their change in a payphone booth. Me? Oh I'll be hanging out by the cigarette machines looking to pick up models for after-life retro portrait photography.
The closing of DP Review is just one of many sign posts and they weren't the first to go. Not by a long shot. They held on as long as they did because they were better capitalized. Not because they were better.