Friday, November 25, 2005

Ang's Angst

Mary Plain put up a great post yesterday in the Bearpit.

Interesting, she cited an article by Tom Ang, who hosted a series I watched on tv called Digital Picture of Britain.
I really liked it; it showed Tom Ang, professional photographer, working with other professionals, persuading them to try out a range of different digital cameras. It had different people each week, using anything from a camera phone to a Canon EOS.

There was a great post-mortem critique session at the end of each show, with analysis of the shots and the cameras. I learned a lot - as I am sure was the intention of the programme.

So I was pretty surprised to see him author this article, which Mary Plain drew to my attention.

It was prety fascinating to learn that:

half of all digital camera sales (not including cameraphones) in the US and Europe are to those who already own a digital camera.
Although I am not altogether surprised; firstly marketing these days is very compelling; but I think also that people become more visually aware and excited when they use digital cameras. the ease of publishing is addictive, because it allows you to keep learning from your errors. make a mistake - take another shot at no extra cost. (Indeed the more photos you take, the more cost effective your purchase becomes. Unlike with the expensive and time consuming processing of films etc.)

However, Ang mourns the increase in people who are using digital cameras because of what it will mean to the professionals, with arguments such as these:

The restructuring of the profession is more subtle, profound and distressing: experienced photographers are finding themselves marginalised, their darkroom skills discounted with a rapidity that makes the destruction of craft traditions
by the industrial revolution appear snail-paced in comparison.

That is no reason to feel sad about the upskilling of others. Indeed I think that the excellent photographer becomes more of a celebrity, far more appreciated, the more that people see how elusive the perfect shot is. For instance, I notice far more now, how brilliant the camera work is on tv. I go to more photographic exhibitions. I want to learn from the professional, not wipe her out. Professionals who need to worry are the ones who are not up to par!

It would be weird to stop children from writing in case they put the novelist out of a job. Surely, Ang cannot beserious that we all stop it.

It is digitality that Ang also mourns;

For the professional, the honeymoon of sensual joy in reviewing pictures immediately and of not having to dash to the lab to get films processed has been replaced by a colder reality. The working day suddenly grew hours longer: with nightfall, we can't put our feet up. No, we sit at the laptop downloading images, captioning and backing up. And, if we are press photographers, we then have to edit the day's shoot before transmitting them.
Now here I DO have sympathy. many of us work longer hours as we have e mail at home; papers on tap to read from the library etc etc. We now have to send out all our own letter; copy our own papers; produce Minutes of meetings (that we chair) etc etc. I know the down side of technology to well.

The other side of this though, is that I also sit for hours working on photos for this site here. But I LOVE it as do so many others, according to my research with people on Flickr.

My overall feeling is that photographers,like everyone else have had to re-think aspects of their job becauseof the digital revolution. But I think I appreciate their skills more. The fact that more of us are involved, may mean that there are more experts around. That's OK isn't it? We can all get better together.



Kate said...

I agree. I love the democatization of the visual and think is why us academics are chasing it BUT the interesting thing is that my daughter (who wants to do photography A level) wants an old fashioned Leica with a film, for her birthday (and a vinal player for Christmas).
PS Go and see my blog is v. funny.

Joolz said...

Yes lots of people think it is not real photog if you do not use 'real' film.

guy said...

I've been pondering on this democratization of the visual that Kate refers to. It is more or less true, but we have to acknowledge that you need the hardware (DrJoolz, you have good stuff!)and that despite the fact that cameras and camphones are cheaper and more available, they're not universally accessible. On another level there's something about showing your pictures (again, here's DrJoolz with Blogger and Flickr). And then, there's some kind of aesthetic at work which always tempts us to distinguish between a good photograph and something that's merely a snapshot, or simply a bad picture.

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Sheffield, South Yorks, United Kingdom
I am an academic interested in New Literacies, Digital Lifestyles, Informal Online Learning.