I’ve just read Goodbye, Camera by Craig Mod on the New Yorker website. To summarise, it’s an article about how the author has grown tired of cameras. That his phone is as good in most cases as a camera for taking photos and in some ways better. The networked photographer has different needs to the traditional photographer. He is not only concerned with image making, he’s also concerned with the metadata, the sharing and the online conversation that follows. Craig Mod’s someone I’ve followed over the past few years as he often writes about books and technology. Publishing’s another industry where technology has altered the consumers physical relationship with the product.
It feels to me like the networked photographer – not a term I’m fond of to be honest – is for a younger generation, a new type of photography. A fusion of image and words and then feedback. It works well as single images, posted like diary entries. This is why something like instagram was such a hit. It’s not working at just an image level, it’s a snapshot diary of whatever you want. The one thing I really like about something like instagram is that a phone allows people to capture anything they want and not feel too self-conscious. So you get the strangest of moments, the weirdest of obsessions and also great formal compositions. It frees people up, but it’s not mutually exclusive. Alec Soth is a photographer who’s embraced the online but this hasn’t meant he’s thrown his cameras out. It’s something different. I don’t think cameras will die in the foreseeable future, nor do I believe Craig Mod does either. TVs are getting larger, resolutions higher, and people want to photograph a broad range of subjects that phones don’t lend themselves to like street, sports, young kids running around. Phones are limited in size and thus ergonomics, optics, frame size are all major hurdles. Also, add wifi to a camera, tether to your phone and you’re networked (this would be a great feature on my Fuji X100).
I’m also not 100% convinced that data attached to photos is revolutionary. For snapshots, some photojournalism, it’s very useful as you can catalogue photos with names of people, when it was taken and whatever else takes your fancy. It’s useful for documenting. But would a William Eggleston be improved by having the weather forecast data attached? No, I can see with my own eyes whether it’s sunny or not. Advertisers would love extensive metadata on each photo, I can see the potential there, but how much use is it for us? I’m not convinced it’s a massive jump that hasn’t been around for a while already. We’ve been sharing photos online for quite a while now, I don’t think the urgency to share at an instance is relevant to all types of photography,
The article’s worth a read but what I found most interesting was the comments. At times, it’s pure insanity. Technology clearly worries people a great deal. Some are horrified by the idea that anyone could just pick up an iPhone and take a great picture. Others think he’s some spokesperson for the selfie generation. A consumer junky not willing to learn how to use a camera. Of course, he can use a camera, he’s just saying that for the vast bulk of the time he’s more interested in capturing an image and posting it on the internet than he is with playing around with a camera. It’s an interesting topic though. By wielding a Leica do you feel like more of a photographer than someone with a cheap point and click? Probably. Are your photo’s any better? They’ll look like they were taken with a Leica, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any better.
It’s not bye bye cameras just yet for me but as soon as they make a phone with the ergonomics of a Ricoh GR1, and image quality of a 5d then I’ll happily consider it. Until then, it’ll be a mixture of cameras and that includes a phone as well.