In reading “As We May Think” the passage that really resonated with me personally was this one:
“…Certainly progress in photography is not going to stop. Faster material and lenses, more automatic cameras, finer-grained sensitive compounds to allow an extension of the minicamera idea, are all imminent. Let us project this trend ahead to a logical, if not inevitable, outcome. The camera hound of the future wears on his forehead a lump a little larger than a walnut. It takes pictures 3 millimeters square, later to be projected or enlarged, which after all involves only a factor of 10 beyond present practice. The lens is of universal focus, down to any distance accommodated by the unaided eye, simply because it is of short focal length. There is a built-in photocell on the walnut such as we now have on at least one camera, which automatically adjusts exposure for a wide range of illumination. There is film in the walnut for a hundred exposures, and the spring for operating its shutter and shifting its film is wound once for all when the film clip is inserted. It produces its result in full color. It may well be stereoscopic, and record with two spaced glass eyes, for striking improvements in stereoscopic technique are just around the corner….”
While obviously these statements are fact, it is almost upsetting to me that this is considered “improvement”. While, yes, I do understand that better, faster, clearer is by most standards “improved” doesn’t it take away from the art of it all? The eye of the photographer, the use of environment, the skill with equipment and the know-how and creativity of the person behind the lens should be something that is cherished and valued instead of the paper and technology you can buy.
There is a whole culture going back in time and returning to analog ways of photographing and producing art. Lomography.com is one example of a website that you can purchase analog cameras, retro film and has a database of ideas and ways to be creative and manually manipulate film and your environment to get the most from each shot.
There are a ton of blogs, hastags and instagram accounts devoted to analog photography. The cult is rising and the art and the experience, the culture itself, is far more important than the ease of snapping a pic with a phone and sharing it instantly.
I honestly think most of the fun comes from the wait. The anticipation of what will come when you develop a roll a week, a month or even longer. And even once you develop that roll, what you do with the negative and the color gels and the enlarger gives you a different outcome each and every time. Often a result that can’t be duplicated.
So while technology makes things more user friendly and faster, I don’t agree that all progress is an improvement. Sometimes you should leave art to the creative.
I think my 11th grade photography teacher said it best; “I will teach you to take photographs, not snapshots that go in a family album.”