Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26, 2013

When we make good images, we listen to our inner voice and we block out the noise and clutter of our day.  This daily grind of seeing and hearing so much information that doesn't relate to our lives dulls us in our appreciation of subjects that are demanding our attention.  We need to deepen our heart and rise above this chaos, the over saturation of imagery, that is wasting our time and energy distracting us from creating good photographs.

We don't have to contemplate our subject anymore. All we have to do is run and gun and let the tech minds fix our bad imagery for us.  We might as well send drones up and remote control our input in making images.  All we ultimately get for our remoteness is less and less interaction with our environment and a shallow reflection of the depth that is there waiting to be discovered. These shallow images will only appeal to the small screen eyes that never study an image but always anticipate the next click that will satisfy their souls.

Most image shooters today have never experienced the thrill of developing their own B/W film, making contact sheets of their efforts and finally printing the image and seeing their vision all the way through the print making process.  This hands on approach deepened our sense of accomplishment and connected us with the entire history of photography and the photographers that blazed a trail before we were even born.

It is not the camera's bells and whistles that create great imagery, but the mind behind the viewfinder.  Cameras nowadays can pretty much shoot the scene for you without you having to think.  On some of these new smaller compact cameras they have a built in merge function.  All you do is take one image and then the camera will duplicate that image underexposing 1 stop and overexposing 1 stop and then merging it with the original image.  The result is a perfectly exposed image with highlight detail and shadow detail.  For me, this merged image looks unreal and out of sorts with how a naturally exposed image renders the subject.  These merged images are devoid of a human personality.  I like the contrast in an image, it boosts the play of highlights and shadows, making for a more dramatic photograph.  

When you are not present in the image you will not be satisfied with your results.  There will always be the nagging questions.   Should I have looked deeper into my subject and explored more of the potential present, that deeper connection instead of being satisfied with a quick look, click and gone approach that seems rampant now.

The ultimate threat to photography is the mechanical nature of the means for production.  Can an individual photographer rise above technology and express a creative idea?  Or is he limited in vision by the need to follow the machine that now seems to dictate to him how a subject should be presented.  The camera imposes its will over the photographer and doesn't allow for freedom of reflection on technique that could make the image better than a limited exposure.   The photographer must tame the new technologies and use them for his own personal expressions.

We live in constant separation from the world.  Easily distracted by a bright screen.  We further widen the gap between us and our inner landscape by allowing the camera to dictate to us how to present this shared world we live. We have the world of entertainment, bad actors and worst imitators.  But there is a secret world, a deeper world that is waiting to be seen.  There is an intimacy that is lost now in photographs and a complexity that is reduced to mundane objects of desire or derision. We must tune in to these old undercurrents that are trying to surface and inspire us to think and feel more before we can express ourselves fully through photography. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013

It felt good to rant against the machine.  I let out a lot of frustration and emotions.  For me, it is still  about creating the best images I can.  Thinking before I trip the shutter. I need to calm down, so I will go out and shoot some dew drops on spider webs and rake some birch leaves that have fallen to the ground.  You don't have to travel far to find good images to create. Photography keeps me focused and calm in rough seas.

October 19, 2013

Today photography is not photography in the older sense of image making.  There used to be a separation between the family photo book, the mundane consequences of living a normal life and the inspired craft of creating powerful images that made us really think about the world.  These images had purpose and they spoke to the human condition and tried to change society for the betterment of all.

Photography has become an assembly line of mass production for venture capitalists who have doubled down on investing in social media websites.  It was estimated that in 2012 over 380 billion images were made around the world.  In that year 350 million images were uploaded to Face Book each day alone.  These statistics will only grow exponentially as more and more people get their hands on smaller and cheaper cameras that can virtually shoot the image for them.

The social media websites are the perfect vehicle for the crowd sourced image making frenzy.  These companies get free imagery, most of which are snapshots of people's everyday lives. Let me repeat... that content is free. Can you imagine any other business where a company doesn't have to pay for inventory to be sold on their shelves or at least guarantee a return on sales when a certain volume of supplies are sold?  Can you imagine a business that can set pricing for its suppliers and sell the product to others without maintaining a decent selling price, and then does not share the profits with the very suppliers that created the inventory in the first place?

These social websites not only receive pics of people's lives but also written keywords about their personal inner likes and dislikes.  It is like a petrie dish of scientific laboratory testing.  All this blood sweat and tears is free to be analyzed by statisticians eager to mine the data to direct specific ads to the captive lemmings.  It seems that reality TV and social media sites have become "bare it all" brawls with no social redeeming value but to hear ones own shallow voice cry, "look at me!"

Making a living off your photo making efforts is becoming nonexistent.  Photo buying clients (a dying breed in an ecosystem being washed away by image flooding)  now bargain with impunity, making their case for lowered fees by letting the photographers know that any overpriced image quote (above free) is unacceptable.

Images are becoming stage props to be shown as teasers in front of the main show, ads.  Is the image really that important when any photo exposed to shallow eyes for a split second on a small hand held device doesn't register a meaningful view, but the next more important image, a  product, stops those eyes cold, their mouths begin to drool with envy... "I got to get me one of those!"

Visual content is king.  Paying for visual content is peasantry.  Words are becoming less and less important as papers shrink and minds shrink right along with them. Short sound bytes make perfect sense.  Keep your words tweetful and generic and no one will get what you are truly talking about.  Truth in six words or less.

It will take a strong focus to swim out of this tsunami of imagery that is destroying the photography landscape. These currents are strong, backed by bean counters making huge sums of money off the masses and their personal inventories.

Putting you imagery in free stock, penny stock or royalty free stock is also a no-win situation. These stock agencies could care less about your return on your investment.  Your time and energy are just part of the image content submission process.  It is your responsibility to shoot what they tell you to shoot, upload and size the images, color correct the images and then caption and keyword them on the promise of volume sales.  Huge volume sales, not for the individual photographer, but for the venture capitalists owning these stock agencies that are demanding a return on their investment at the cost of the lowly photographers.

What goes around comes around.  Stock photography undermined the assignment photographers income foundation and the new crowd sourced images have destroyed both professions simultaneously.

The tech companies make money, the manufactures make money, and the social media websites make money and the photographers run on treadmills thinking they're going places, but in this new reality of hand held media devices handcuffed to young eyes, all they are doing is running out of breath supplying a nano second of data to a kid skateboarding on the street cutting off an old geezer in an old Saturn because he is too busy looking at his damn phone as if nothing else existed!!

October 18, 2013

The photo industry is a facade.  It isn't image creation with purpose that is important now for businesses, it is finding a snapshot, a shallow expression that will fill a small screen for less than a few seconds and sell a product that won't be around next year. It is no longer about the image, but the technology that feeds social media.  That is where the money is made.  Photographs are secondary, less than secondary, they are fillers, party favors, cheap, plentiful and dumb, put up on websites so ads can pop up and sell you more technology or some other personal item or service you never knew you needed.

We have in the photo industry lost absolute control over our product.  And because we have lost control of our product we can't price the image for its true value.  We can chase a moving goal post and claim small victories as we keep losing the ability to our pay bills.  But the bottom line is that photographs are now a zero sum investment for the money men.  It is the new wow technologies that are the real money makers for the venture capitalists.  Photography is a numbing visual redundancy.  An imitative boring expose of "here I am, look at me and what I just did".  It is beyond embarrassing it is vulgar and exposes us to the existential reality of the absurd.  

In these board rooms I can hear the money men with their slick smiles telling investors, "don't worry about the photogs, they have already signed over their rights, so we can use and sell their images cheaper and cheaper.  And guess what, we will have them pay for their own storage on our websites by this new gimmick called the Cloud and we can give away their images at whatever price we deem necessary to increase volume".  A good deal all around for the titans of the venture capitalist market.

This drive to exploit imagery, in turn exploits the people taking these pictures, it becomes an addictive cycle of photographic abuse.  Seeing these images, becomes the motive to imitate them or take it one step further on up the ladder of obsession.  You must ask yourself what is the purpose of uploading every detail of your ordinary life.  There is only one reason, human frailty.  The need to be seen at any cost.  This fixation on social media doesn't allow us to slow down and see the world through our own unique eyes.  Social media is a distraction to inner reflection.  There is a special quality in all of us, and that is what needs to be expressed.

We seem to be born followers, and will follow the herd mentality right off the cliff of exploitation.  We now see the world through technology, losing the memories that we had of actually living in this world and experiencing things first hand and not through a small window of dull expressions.  In our lives are constant distractions from making the world our own.

We live trying to keep up with the ever expanding technology that makes image taking easier and easier but in the long run reduces the intent of photography to an artifact of bygone days. We have an artificial product now exploited by big business. But how often is an image made nowadays, that a human mind actually reflected longer than a split second to find a composition, a perspective that made an image worth taking.  We tend to ignore the real world and focus on surface glitter, this new fast paced run and gun crowd sourced slop that overwhelms our senses and our ability to see the babble that is dominating our lives in a negative way.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13, 2013

Denis de Rougemont said, "The superstition of our time expresses itself in a mania for equating the sublime with the trivial."  And Henry Holmes Smith added to the quote, "and to take whatever is lower to be more real.

We have been conditioned to see resemblance in an image as a connection to the real and when there isn't a sure foot to view the picture on, a sure simple conclusion of an image's intent according to our own shallow view then we disconnect from the image and don't think of it as important or worthy of study.

The hard part in photography is to have a vision of your purpose in creating art.  Your inspiration can come from many extremes, even from ordinary resemblances.  The subjective image is one such extreme.  When you feel intensely and want to express that feeling visually can you rely on mundane objects to get that intent across to the viewer.  Or are you forced to create a new world of objects that comply with your expressive goals?  This new world of objects are still resemblances but are now part of an internal dialogue of purpose.   These objects can be abstracted to create an intent to express your deep revelations.  You might decide to light them in an extreme way to bring out harsh details instead of nuances in your subject details. You may decide to shoot through something,  that gives the illusion of barriers to your subject as in a relationship that is unbridgeable etc...

The key to personal imagery is to not go to such an extreme that only you can describe what the image intent is.