The Future of Photography?

Is photography in crisis? Or is it thriving? How can we quantify the impact of digital technology upon what we think of as ‘a photograph’? What does the future hold? Over the last several months, Oomska talked to a wide range of photographers – amateur and professional – as well as teachers, critics, website hosts, and other interested parties. In the coming days, we will present the intriguing – and, hopefully, entertaining – results of our ‘Future of Photography’ Q&A.

The aim of this series of interviews is to assess, or at least discuss, the future of photography. Which, of course, also means weighing up the current status of photography. The idea for the Q&A was initially prompted by the death of Willard Boyle. Boyle had shared a Nobel prize for the invention of the CCD (charge-coupled device), the foundation for all modern digital imaging technologies. While we were pondering that, we witnessed the refusal of the American government to release photographs of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse. It would be very hard to decide which one of these two seemingly unrelated events says more about the immeasurably significant place photography has long held in our society, or about the ways in which that role is changing. The clamour for photographic evidence of Bin Laden’s death speaks, on one hand, to the power of photography as a trusted medium, as a historical ‘teller of truths’; it also can be viewed as emblematic of the way in which our post-September 11th world has become newly suspicious of public photography. And Boyle’s technology – for better or worse – has come to be seen as a dangerously fertile breeding ground for fakery: if photographs have the power to inform and educate, they can also be used to mislead, and manipulate. Back in 2003, for instance, London’s ‘Evening Standard’ newspaper was accused of having used image manipulation software to duplicate members of a supposedly ‘jubilant’ crowd of Iraqis welcoming the American invasion.

Certain peoples, and religions, once feared that photographs could steal souls; today, some people worry that the soul (and role) of photography is in danger. Is photography in crisis? In many ways, it would be easy to list some compelling reasons for arguing that photography is in rude health: there are more cameras being used, and more photographs being taken today, than ever before; the once marginalised discipline of street photography has now gained artistic acceptance and mainstream recognition; a few years ago, Sotheby’s in New York sold a single photographic print (‘The Pond – Moonlight’, by Edward Steichen) for $2.9 million. On the other hand, can we even be sure what we mean by ‘photography’ any more? Not only has digital technology changed the face of photography, but things are now moving so fast that the way things are changing is itself in flux. A few years ago, we might have been discussing online photo hosting sites such as Flickr; today Flickr itself can seem quite old hat, compared to phenomena such as Hipstamatic, Instagram, and Lytro’s ‘shoot now, focus later’ cameras. What will the long, or even medium term implications of all these technological impacts be? In a digital world, can film survive? In a video-oriented world, can the still image endure?Will ‘photographs’ still retain their power and centrality to our culture? Is photography, as a medium and an art form, changing so much that it may eventually splinter, or fizzle out completely?

- by John Carvill



>> Go to Part 1 – Ed Swinden Q&A

>> Go to Part 2 – George Plemper Q&A

>> Go to Part 3 – Steve Gullick Q&A

>> Go to Part 4 – Derek Ridgers Q&A

>> Go to Part 5 – Philip Greenspun Q&A

>> Go to Part 6 – Carlein van der Beek Q&A

>> Go to Part 7 – Tamara Bogolasky Q&A

>> Go to Part 8 – Emma Jay Q&A

>> Go to Part 9 – Nick Turpin Q&A

>> Go to Part 10 – Peter Marshall Q&A

>> Go to Part 11 – Jeff Curto Q&A

>> Go to Part 12 – Nick Morrish Q&A


14 comments to The Future of Photography?

  1. Ron Williams says:

    What a great article.

    The failure of Kodak to embrace change and new technology, resulting in their bankruptcy and being left in the dust is sad such a great company has to go down. For me as a kid in the 50s, the Kodak brand was equivalent to what Apple is today to the youth culture.

    I’ve been a photographer since I was 10, my first camera being a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, and the flash bulbs kept my mother broke and the smell of photo fixer always annoyed her, but she knew it might encourage me to become a professional photographer. I do miss Kodachrome, Panatomic X, Ektachrome, Orthochromatic, Kodacolor and all those intriguing sounding names Kodak gave their films. Photography isn’t just about the photo, the print, the content, the color, it all centered around the ritual of creation (the setup, the film developing, mixing darkroom chemicals, etc.), and that’s been lost. Photography is really changing again and with the advent of so many electronic images floating by our eyes, we notice less and less, maybe bringing the old chemical process into the realm of a sought after lost and forgotten art forms. So, folks hold on to all those silver nitrate chemical prints, Kodachrome slides and old brown aged photos, they are will become the sought after art work as our younger culture ages.

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