10 novembre 2017

Doing your classical? (Is there a future for the traditional way of photographing?)

(Part of "the contemporary meaning of photography" series)

Nota: This final episode of our photography meaning search saga is dedicated to all my old friends and colleges that have a profound passion of the traditional ways of doing photography. A great great generation of picture takers that are thinking that they have been spoiled by the introduction of the digital age, an age that have no respect for traditions or ancien manners of all kind.

It is amazing to try to count how many times the death of traditional photography has been announced since the last 3 or 4 decades. In fact it is a testimony of the continuous resilience of the medium over two centuries. But is there still a future in doing photography the classical way? Otherwise described by that taking picture with a specialized camera device, then treating the image registered and  then after diffusing it or printing it.

Specialized camera devices have known a lot of transformations during those 200 years. Many socall modern photo equipment have become totally obsolete in a relatively short period of time. It happens all the time and will happen again. SLR then DSLR designs are now on the verge of anhilation by more recent un-mirror design. Since we are constantly on the move we want performing cameras in a smaller and lighter package with easy connecting virtues. That is the price to pay for innovation and many traditional camera manufacturers are facing the challenge to simply survive in that new dimension.

So is traditional way of doing photography will disappear in profit of an "instamatic" world? Not really because the demand for more sophisticated photography both technical and artistically will remain and expand following our demographic grow. But as usual during all the course of the photo history learning the more demanding aspect of producing original and impacted pictures will stay the work of a more specialized users.

When I have started to take pictures we were at the pinacle of film photography and many older photographers were stating that the days of traditional photography were over, that everybody (meaning not especially skilled) can take good pictures. Since that time I can certify you that many very talented new artists and photographers just prove the contrary by exploring new ways of exploiting the medium.

It occurs to me that today photography can ask you a greater personal investment than just clicking but offer also a much more rewarding consideration. It is up to you to go ahead!

The Art of frozen vision

Part of "the contemporary meaning of photography" series)

It is about photography. Is it an Art? We know already the "art" of doing photography but the result of it can we compare it to the others forms of art such as painting or sculpture? It has been already a long debate and even today photography is still fighting for its legitime place in the Parthenon of Art.

In fact photography has been and still is a very actual art by creating trends and carrying them over the past two centuries. Artists have incorporated or simply expose their pictures into a variety of visual presentations. So it seems very difficult to restreint photography into its classical 2D flat representation. But photography is stil the expression of a frozen vision as a flash of the selected moment by the auteur.

Today there is a multitude of photographic events that are showing many of the different aspects of this contemporary visual art. Subjects, treatments and diffusion modes have exploded around our cultural world. Influences have become fully multi-lateral at a point that make uneasy to identify the many currents of creativity available. Moreover artists have chosen for many an ecliptic way of life that bounce from one interest to another. Although mécènes of art are still exist in variable forms a lot of artists are self-sustaining producers and diffusers.

Is there a place for innovation in our today world of constant communication? This question is surely initiated by the arrogance for the past artistic creators versus the actual production. Surely all visual arts (as for the others forms of Art) will continue to evolute in form, in practice, in showing. New subjects will appear as for older subjects that can be reinvent. New and more classical visual representations of the frozen vision can be reconstructed. The limitations as we are seing today cannot prevent us to research new frontiers and reach them.

Photography is certainly a very contemporain cultural expression that showcase many humain interpretations of our world.


Next theme: Doing your classical? Is there a future of the traditional way of photographying?

Photojournalism: Where is my public ?!!!

(Part of "the contemporary meaning of photography" series)

It is a drama related over the Photo Web sphere of the last two decades. What is happening to the traditional photojournalism that has been the most famous front of popular and professional photography reconnaissance?

If the technical skill to physically producing a product can be accordingly remunerated it is by far more difficult to get paid for an idea or  style or any original expression.

Multiplicity of the photographic resources can be also a definitive changing factor in photojournalism. With the past five decades of demographic explosion it is impossible to ignore the variety and the availability of the different sources of pictures in these societies.

But the necessity of pictorial interpretations of our human realities is still prevailing today. True to say that the so-call golden era of photo reporters with secure retribution is now over and we are facing a kind of renewed version of the ancient "pictographers" as we have seen at the very beginning of modern photography practice. Except for very specialized segments of photo production you cannot pretend no more to build your profesional life on the base only of taking news pictures.

The act of photo taking is for the good or the bad an highly democratic feature. So it depend of our own motivation and resources to plan, to produce and to diffuse our results. As I use to call them 25 years ago during my photo professionnel career the days of the corporated photographers are terminated (The bar is closed!). Today a new generation of young, talented and persistent photographers have taken the lead and their pictures can be seen on many new media.

It remains the question "Where is my public (gone)? The answer is everywhere in our present Web sphere of connections and communication.  There is no more general audiences (There is never had in fact) to refer in  for the diffusion of every kind of information. It is now specialize, local, institutional, corporative, etc. At the end the need to register part (bit) of human history will prevail one way or another.


Next theme: The Art of frozen vision (Photography as a cultural expression)

Memory of the future: Paper, Disc, Cloud...Photography in search of a future!

(Part of  "the contemporary meaning of photography"series)

For over more than its 180 first years the representation of photography has been done on a solid 2D support like paper, cardboard, glass, etc. Today it seems to be no really relevant to show our pictures that way only. Instead we are using on screen devices that for most of them give us a very handy and high resolution representation of the image. The problem with this is that those devices dont really sustain the picture permanently as it use to be in the past. So for any archival purpose or future reference you will need another support (digital or not) to preserve your photographs.

Preserving images doesn't matter if you are not interested to keep souvenirs or picture reminders from your past. In that case future access to digital memory or digital memory fading are not a real preoccupation. Sorry to confirm you this fact that can be observed for the immense majority of the pictures taken today. People in our present societies have a tendency to obliterate the past and are not interest anymore with history. The question of connection (Internet) is now essential to every photographing today devices. Many traditional camera manufacturers are finding very hard to understand that very basic fact of our consumer world.

The "consumer" societies as we are experiencing today is not really prepared and not really interest to stock over information that will seem obsolete in a very short term. So we are actually dropping or flushing most of our media production. And more important even when we intend to preserve some of it, it is only for a very short period of time.

The other problem of photographic preservation is the selection of what we think it is wort to do so. Because of the outstanding amount of imagery we are constantly producing in this digital age it start to be painfully annoying to try to choose and to classify our photographs.

In my sense the only approach of preserving pictures on a long term (at least for few generations) is to complete the entire cycle of producing photography. In simple term doing a print copy of your picture as we use to do for the first 200 years for the medium. So (ironicaly) the print may eventually win over disc, tape, drive,  cloud ... after all!


Next theme: Photojournalism: Where is my public?

09 novembre 2017

Can I say (show) something? (The purpose of photography)

(Part of "the contemporary meaning of photography" series)

Is photography has became a redondant figure of our visual expression during our modern age?

For many it seems to be true in view of the always present of the animated image mainly in cinematography and videography. But representations of still photography are present as never everywhere in our society. So it is not a question of life and death for photography today but more a perception factor.

The purpose of (still) photography is multiplied by its diversified uses. Commercially no question about it the picture representation is here to stay. All kind of pictures illustrate products and services in many ways. There is a strong demand to do so and be more "pictographic" informative than textual.

What is changing a lot about today photography is its great diversity and its immense availability. In that sense you cannot anymore try to synthesize it in few categories or ressources or purposes. Moreover you cannot anymore speak about a very specialized medium because it became so popular, so accessible and so easy to diffuse. The "elite" time of photographers is gone for ever.

It is a combination of technical advancements in picture taken and of digital implementations that really democratized photography. But the messages remain... because photography is still an universal language with a strong impact to its audiences.

So can I show something new, different, relevant, informative? The answer is surely yes. What is a bit more difficult to admit is the fact that the traditional ways to present the picture are only a fraction from the many others ways to do it. And that can be frustrating for a lot of traditionalist picture takers.

At the end the purpose of photography can be simply describe as a visual way to express yourself. It can be art, news, illustrations, souvenirs but it is always about an image memory of a privilege moment in our life.


Next theme: Memory of the future: Paper, Disc, Cloud...Photography in search of a future!

Polaroid all over the "Phone" Planet and the "Web" World (as a trace of personal life involvement)

(Part of "the contemporary meaning of photography" series)

Finally Edwin Hebert Land the creator of the original Polaroid instant film process has won the war over Kodak. Its idea of instant photography succeeded with the combined introduction of the smartphone and the web facilities of our digital world. You can call it the digital Polaroid of our time. And nobody can contest that simple fact and even the idea of an instant print picture has been revived by nostalgics, by artists or by web fans and many commercial opportunities have been taken by small entrepreneurs like the Impossible group or by big industrial machine like Fujifilm.

So doing digital "Polaroid" was really the future of popular (instamatic or instant) photography. And it works at the gigantic scale in our modern demography. The tools are available, affordable and easy to operate with good picture results in standard situations. There will be no coming back to the despair of many traditional camera manufacturers.

Today instant photography is becoming an expression of ourself in the context of our life and surrounding. It interact with our close friends and relatives. It definite our style of living. It express our thinking, our reaction and our endorsement of the moment. It confirm our presence in space and events. It leave a fugace trace of ourself into our instant world, a trace that will be almost certainly obliterated the next moment. But this is part of our today world and the success of the medium. This world is about constant change more than evolution. It is like fashion and photography is fashion.

It isn't a question if instant photography is good or bad because it fulfil deeply a need of interpersonal communication in a society that have idealized individualism as a main way of life. Those who don't need it will simply ignore it as a way of expression because and it is still the beauty of it you can choose to participate or not to this instant world.

So what the most popular way of doing photography? You dont need help to find that answer! Just look simply into your pocket or your bag!


Next theme: Can I say (show) something? (The purpose of photography)

05 novembre 2017

The contemporary meaning of photography: a story in color and in black and white

A short series of personal perceptions on photography


Almost 200 years has passed since the bases of modern photography has been settled by directly or indirectly printing the right interpretation of our surrounding on the same manner as your eyesight. It was at the time a complete visual revolution that brings us with flashes of memory of our past time and many foreign spaces. It has shaped a new and extended vision of our world. It has fascinated large specialized or unaware different publics. Today photography even after 2 centuries remains a source of constant controversies on many of its diverse aspects or subjects. Some populations or cultures are still banning it on the base of its own subversive power.

At first photography was essentially a technical curiosity with strong limitations. It took several attempts and further technical development to reach a practical level of producing it. It was also a privilege medium of the few before industrial pioneers like George Eastman with its Kodak had popularized it. Today with the introduction of photography into the digital age with the web connected smartphones photography became an instant part of our every day life. But what is the contemporary meaning of today photography? Is it a simple communication tool of personal expression or a reliable memory instant statement of the time or a visual art expression of its own? Is it still valuable in our past-present-future way of living? Many questions had risen over the past three or four decades on the importance of the photography in our societies.

At least we have one answer about the need of photography in today world and it is paramount to try to evaluate its intense use in our way of communicating and living. Billions of pictures are presented on many different viewing supports everyday almost everywhere. So there is a strong demand to do and to consume photography and sorry…photography is not dead!

Here are the themes that have been developed along this series:

Polaroid all over the "Phone" Planet and the "Web" World (as a trace of personal life involvement) 

Can I say (show) something? (The purpose of photography)

Memory of the future: Paper, Disc, Cloud...Photography in search of a future! (The diary of our present conserved for the coming generation) 

Photojournalism: where is my public? 

The Art of frozen vision (Photography as a cultural expression) 

Doing your classical homework? (Is there a future for the traditional way of photographing?) 
Your comments are always appreciated.

Daniel M

01 novembre 2017

The size (dimension) factor in modern compact digital camera

(Picture fromWeb source)
35mm film (135) format cameras of the latest century have represented for most of the photographers the finest representation of a compact photo device. Highly practical,  very versatile, more ergonomic, relatively cheap and always innovative until the beginning of the digital era. But even considering all these interesting factors and others not mentioned here their size remains the most conclusive element of success during all these times of using traditional negative and transparency films.

In fact the size factor is not only an intemporel data regarding the design of cameras it is also a decisive one. Today we are facing the same dilemma for digital photographic tasked devices. What is the magic formula in terms of weight and dimensions? The answer is that there is no need to reinvent the calculations because that has been done several times already on several studies and the results are always approaching the same compact size package. A package that have been definite early by pioneers like Oskar Barnack with its Leica (although he was first using 35mm film but with a bit narrower negative frame format).

What we learn with experience is that the picture frame format is far less relevant to the photographic users than the size (and weight) of the camera. The models which are transgressing that moto will soon or later be put aside one way or another. It is a very unforgiving market law.

With the introduction of the OM-1 (M-1) in 1972 Olympus has redefined
the Leica concept to 35mm (135) SLRs (Picture from Web source)
During the last two or three decades of the SLR era we have observed two major successives tendencies. At first a general trend to downsize SLRs initiated mainly by the introduction of the Olympus OM series ( OM-1 in 1972) followed by most of the other manufacturers ( Pentax M series, Nikon E, FM & FE series, Canon A series, etc.) This trend has been succeeded by the extended automation of the functionalities of the camera like exposure metering, motorized film advance, ISO auto-indexing and even more significantly the auto-focusing. All these change have induced the creation of bulkier camera that were using a lot of software and ... battery power. The size of lenses also inflated a lot.  For sure there is a period that many photo enthusiasms were sharing the desire to be associated with camera models that were at first identified as professional apparentus.

Its about that time that the first attempts to substitute traditional 35mm SLRs by digital cameras appear. The new technology of digital image captor prevent the manufacturer to produce frame sensors of the 35mm size format equivalent. This is why they defend themselves by saying that DX (Nikon) or APS-C (Canon) were largely sufficient to do the job. And as a bonus the size of the cameras and lenses appear to be similar to the old film SLRs. Canon was the first to come back with a sensor size of approximately 24 X 36mm (comparable to the 135 film format). After a few years of denegations Nikon finally imitate Canon in that way. The big advantage for them was to be able to market again the old full line of lenses issued during the film era.

Today building a digital camera will face different new constraints. The image sensor and its processor will take the place of the old negative and its cartridge of the film era. You need to accommodate an LCD screen that can be act as a live viewfinder or a picture viewer for image review. automatic and regulator system are more sophisticated and rely on battery pack power. The heating issue mainly seen during video recording has to be addressed also. And not saying that you still have to design a camera that will withstand general and intensive uses in sometimes very adverse conditions. All those aspects have received special attentions from the manufacturer designed teams with success most of the time.

Today in 2017  the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is fully respecting
 the weight and the  original dimensions of the 1972 OM-1.
But what about the sizes of the modern digital compact cameras. Two schools have emerged since a decade. The one that privilege the 24 X 36mm image frame format issued from the old 135 film (called falsely Full Format because full format image is in fact available in every formats...). The others that have chosen to exploit the "new" formats like APS-C and M4/3. These smaller formats combined with the electronic viewfinder (EVF) technology (first developed for videographers) are permitting much smaller designs that appear to be very similar in weight and dimensions to the former compact manual focus 35mm cameras. The two most mentioned arguments against them are the disparition of the traditional optical viewfinder (via a mirror box) and the more deep of field generated by smaller format frame dimensions. And each case advantages and disadvantages of each schools ( Mirror versus Mirrorless) tend to be gradually narrowed by technologic advancements.

But at the end you will finish with the size factor. And more and more photographers are choosing the compactness of the mirrorless models precisely for that. The picture quality output of the modern mirrorless can easily withstand the usual requirement of the virtual or printed publication even better than the traditional film of the past.

Every technological step of evolution encounter stiff resistance at its first introduction. But solutions of the past have never been eternal answers to the problematic of the future.