I remember when my kids were young, my father couldn’t believe that they didn’t get excited about the space shuttle launches. I’m dating myself here, but both he and I could remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning to watch those early launches on the small screen of our little black and white TV. It was history in the making. My kids, on the other hand, had never known a time without space ships, so their reaction to a shuttle launch was pretty matter-of-fact.
The same thing can be said for the evolution of photography. I remember the amazement of my first Brownie camera — no, I’m not quite that old, it was my grandmother’s. But all photography was black and white and we were really impressed by the ability to capture an image and preserve our memories and observations of the world around us. Some of the greatest images ever came from that era of black and white — and it remains a great choice for showing contrast and artistic style.
But then there was color. We’d take our film in to be developed and were so excited to have these more vivid entries in our photo albums. Now our kids would know that Grandma’s hair really was blue!
Next came Polaroids — instant gratification even though the pictures had a limited life span before they faded. And then came the digital revolution. With digital, you could see whether you got the shot right away — and it was preserved forever in digital format — and you could have it printed. What could be better?
The switch from film to digital was quite a controversial transition, especially in the beginning when the resolution in digital cameras wasn’t as good as it is now. The ongoing dialog between photographers — purists on one side and ‘early adopters’ on the other — continues to a certain extent even today. But digital is by far more mainstream in the world we now live in.
The story doesn’t end here, though. The emergence of multi-media is creating probably an even bigger stir in the photography world than the transition from film to digital. Talking with a number of our pro photographer partners, I hear a lot of different opinions ranging from it being a necessary evil to being the most exciting thing that’s ever happened. There is a convergence happening, with videographers and still photographers meeting in the middle, leaving some to wonder which group will show the greater mastery of this newest medium. One thing they all seem to agree on, though, is that their success requires they add this skill to their portfolios.
Corey Rich, from Aurora Photos, recently told me that he hasn’t been this excited about photography since he picked up his very first camera — and that he feels the transition to multi-media is a much bigger evolution in the field than the transition from film to digital — one that will really shake things up for professional photographers.
We are used to having all our senses engaged — sight, sound, color, motion. This really hit home for me when I attended LOOK|between in June. Put on by the folks at LOOK|3, it was a mentorship event for up and coming photographers (more on that later). But while I was watching all the amazing presentations, I have to admit that those without the multi-media element didn’t grab me as much as those with it. Amazing as the images were , the absence of stimulation for all the senses was really noticeable.
So now I think about the current generation — those who are growing up with video games, color, action, sound and interaction. Will they even know that cameras once had film? Will they ever know what it’s like to use a dark room, to experience the anticipation and the thrill of seeing the film develop and their images emerge? Will their reaction to multimedia be similar to my kids’ and the space shuttle launch? And what’s next on the horizon for photography?
What do you think?