Monday, February 9, 2015

Accepting What Is New and Integration Into The Existing - A Philosophical Trip For Photographers

Interesting times we live in.  We live in an age where technology far outpaces our ability to fully understand it, it’s potential and our acceptance of it.

Thomas Kuhn wrote in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, that “new ideas, however well-proven and evident, are implemented only when the generations who consider them 'new' die and are replaced by generations who consider the ideas accepted and old”.

Could it be that some kind of neophobia, a fear of new things, that prevents us from accepting the new?  Do we have too much bias toward that which we know and an inability to accept the new?  Is it not possible for use to have a period of crossover or bridging of old and new?  Why do we need to choose at all?

Not only have cell phone cameras proliferated for images, they allow video to be shared in real time.
I don’t think we do need to choose and we certainly should not denigrate those that choose one path over the other.  Pointing out the benefits of one path over the other is a natural way of people to help determine what is the best way for them.  They can all coexists.

For example, being that we are all about photography, the progression of photography technology over the years.  From the creation of the first image that took over 8 hours to create only to have it disappear later – we evolved to glass plates to paper one off shots to reproducible mediums like celluloid films and now into a digital sensor medium.  The cameras went from the size of rooms, down to suit cases, to small boxes to now sizes capable of fitting inside a coat or pants pocket.

Are we not to learn the lessons from the past like the blacksmith?  A noble pursuit, but given more modern technologies like castings, CNC machinery, and target market changes, the once required craft/profession is now reduced down to a “brotherhood” of those wanting to learn.
Not only did the tools for the job change, but the market changed too.

As photographers, we too, must also change with the tools and the market.  We all know that we need to use the best tool for the job, no matter what that might be.  The trend in tools is to get smaller and more portable while still getting the same quality of output and function, if not better than the previous generations.  

A smaller lighter tool allows for us to use it more efficiently and for longer periods of time.  Advances in technology give us the ability to use it in more efficient ways.  Remember back when the masses thought it was silly to have a rear LCD?  Who needed that?  You didn’t have that with film, if you know what you are doing, you’ll get it right in camera and not have to worry about it.  That is why we have professional photographers, right?  They have the expertise to get it right.   Oh….but they used Polaroid instants to check exposures too….hmmmm….and now the arguments are, not does it have an LCD or not, but how big is it, under 3” – no thanks….not 1k or 2k+ resolutions….laggy junk, right?  Even though I can see the exposure of the scene in real time and get it right even before capturing it.
Pretty cool tech to have, I might say.  When you really think about it though, are we not just satisfying requests from long ago all in one tool now?

No longer is there need for fear of going back to the darkroom and finding out that you left the lens cap on the rangefinder and all your exposures are black.  No longer is there the fear that the off camera lighting I used was too hot or not bright enough, or the color temperature is off.
We even have cameras that have hybrid optical viewfinders and EVF!  Best of both worlds, useful for the times an OVF would be a better choice.

I still shoot with both my DSLRs and with mirrorless offerings.  I’ve also shot with film cameras and still do some, but that is mostly for economic reasons.  I like shooting with my Mamiya C33, but I can’t afford the current generation of digital medium format cameras and lenses.   I’m also thankful that I do not need to rely on those film cameras I used to us for work.  I think I still appreciate them more for the nostalgia than anything else.
Mamiya C33 Professional - Medium Format All Manual Twin Lens Reflex Camera
Believe me, I’m not one that is about change just for the sake of change.  I fight that battle quite a bit at my other job.  The issue there is that they are all too eager to jump on the “new is better” bandwagon and not vet out the best solution for the job.

I’ve stated many times before that we live in a time where just about any DSLR or mirrorless camera are capable of producing images that any photographer would be proud to show, heck even iPhone images have been featured on front pages of high profile newspapers.

Which brings us to the marketplace.  Long gone are the days of photographers having clients knock down their doors for work.  When the process of capturing and processing an image took a specialized skill set now is more streamlined.  Using our blacksmith as an analogy, not everyone knew how hot the coals needed to be, how best to separate metals from the stones they were in, how to temper the metals, how cool the water needed to be, when best to strike the metal, when to get it back into the fire….I think you get the idea.

Same with photographers.  It used to be we were the only ones that knew how to mix the chemicals, which ones to use for black and white or color. How long to keep it in the developer and the fixer, how long to agitate, how to work an enlarger.

Now, the chemicals are gone and the dark room too…all replaced with electronic bits and bites.  And everyone has the capacity to capture and share an image.

The market is saturated with images, millions of them stored and transferred every day.
With the instant gratification and low attention span culture we now live in, a lot of people are more than happy to just give their images away.  They see no value in their images.  Really?  If there were no value in them, they wouldn’t share them at all.  Of course there is value, just not as much for them as a professional photographer.

Some people just love to do things, I love my work.

How do you compete with that?  Well, going cold calling gets your information out there, but just having great images is not enough.  When photographers owned the market on getting great images, it was an easier sell.  Now, there are great images out there and a lot of them for free.

In order to survive, you need to find that niche in the market and also you need to figure out how to get noticed and stand out from the bunch.   I’m not the only one that can create a great image, but I can provide a better skill set than most.  My definition of a professional photographer is not just “I get paid for the images I create”.   A professional photographer not only creates images, but can do it to specification of client need.  A pro can work within a project group, can meet deadlines, has the ability to provide the agreed upon deliverables as specified, but also think outside the box and give the client options.  They have to be a business person and not just a guy/gal with camera.

Markets are so swift in this day and age, that I cannot keep doing business the same way I did it even 7 years ago!  The NY Times is using crowd sourced images from Instagram as a page 1 story!  Other papers are letting their staff photographers go and getting freelancers or using services like Demotix to get images from events.

Just a few years ago, I was dead set against doing video in my business model.  Now, given the crave of still and motion images, it is a detriment for me to not at least start looking into it. 
In this day and age of popularity alone being a measure of fame and authority, it only makes sense to try and get backing of high profile partners. 

The best thing about all this is that there are ways of getting to where you need to be without selling your soul or cheating anyone.  Again, the real test is finding what makes sense in your market and for your target demographic.

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