Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..

Is Photography Really Dying?

I recently came across an article in The Guardian  called “The Death of Photography: Are camera phones destroying an Artform?  After reading it I thought it would be a good topic to pursue and explore more in-depth here on Keo BloG. Before you go any further please take a few moments to read the article linked above…..

Window Reflection in Prague

Window Reflection in Prague

Ok…now that we all read the article what do you think?

The article starts off with this lead paragraph.

“It’s really weird,” says Antonio Olmos. “Photography has never been so popular, but it’s getting destroyed. There have never been so many photographs taken, but photography is dying.”

There really are two sides to this argument addressed in this article.  I am going to use some of the issues brought out and add my own experiences, observations and thoughts about the direction photography seems to be heading. Photography is a relatively young medium compared to other art forms like painting, sculpture and ceramics.

According to the article…Antonio Olmos argues that in the 1850s the rise of photography made many painters, who had previously made nice livings from painting family portraits, redundant. Now it’s the turn of professional photographers to join the scrap heap. “Photographers are getting destroyed by the rise of  iPhones. The photographers who used to make £1,000 for a weekend taking wedding pictures are the ones facing the squeeze. Increasingly we don’t need photographers – we can do just as well ourselves.”

I’ve heard this many times from my commercial photography colleagues. Professional photographers are finding it more difficult to compete and get viable jobs because so many potential clients now believe they can “do it themselves” with their digital cameras.

Photography has been reinventing itself ever since Louis Daguerre made the first Daguerreotype. It is interesting to note that soon after the invention of the daguerreotype French history painter Paul Delaroche supposedly declared that PAINTING WAS DEAD!

In some ways I suppose it was the beginning of the end for the art of painting – at least as a mode for representing external reality. Photography does this so much better, faster and cheaper. Some artists in the late 1800’s were very intimidated by photography, yet some like Delacroix saw it as a new and powerful tool to help them make better paintings.

“Delaroche is particularly remembered for his much-quoted remark, on seeing the Daguerreotype, that “from today, painting is dead!  Though it makes an interesting story, the author has yet to find any evidence that Delaroche actually said this! He was, in fact, a leading advocate of photography, as the following observations, some of which come from his report to the French government, show:

“The Daguerreotype process completely satisfies all the demands of art, carrying essential principles of art to such perfection that it must become a subject of observation and study even to he most accomplished painters.”

“The painter will discover in this process an easy means of collecting studies which he could otherwise only have obtained over a long period of time, laboriously and in a much less perfect way, no matter how talented he might be.”

Ok…so much for the history lesson.  The point is the medium of photography is evolving and has been since the mid-1800’s.

Excerpt below from my an earlier blog post called Analog vs. Digital.

I can remember making my first print over 40 years ago in the darkroom of New York Institute of Technology like it was yesterday. It was one of those “AHHA” moments for me, and to think many photographers have only worked in the digital realm and may never have experienced the mood and mystery of the darkroom with its smells of Dektol, Stop Bath and Fixer, making prints under the glow of an amber safe light.

We must remember that digital photographic technology is still in its embryonic stage. We can’t even imagine how its going to look 10 years from now. The technology has advanced so rapidly it is mind boggling. It’s also important to remember that the art of painting has been with us for 35,000 + years and photography has only been around since the 1830′s – about 170 years. In that relatively short period of time it has undergone many amazing transformations.

by Stefan Y. Silvia Rivera

Miguel A Servellon Photographing by Stefan Y. Silvia Rivera 

When its all said and done photography is still about seeing the world and translating what we see with our camera no matter what type of camera we are using and what we use to process the images.

Photography is now shown prolifically on blogs, social networks like Facebook, sent via e-mail, cell phone and twitter and yes is still exhibited in galleries and museums in print form, however is the mystic behind the actual printed image fading?

The print used to be the final step in the photographic process before matting framing and possibly exhibiting. This is still occurring no doubt, but a new generation of photographers and even many older photographers like myself and viewers of photography have other options and avenues for using, viewing, appreciating and analyzing photographs besides making actual prints.

Ansel Adams in front of his straight print and fine print of Moonrise

So what about this THING we call the print? In gaining all these new creative venues (outlets) for showing / sharing photography, has the print been relegated to an after thought or more commercial realms? Is there a real difference between looking at an actual print and the same image posted on the web in digital form?
I create many images with my cell phone, point and shoot, Holga and Canon 5-D that are posted to my blog, but never get printed. Does the viewing experience change when viewed from a computer screen or cell phone? I personally think so!

So yes…photography is rapidly evolving and many of the changes in the medium are great and exciting, however I must admit to missing the “thingness” of the printed photograph. I can’t even imagine what photography will be like in 10 – 20 years.  What will the cameras look like?  I wouldn’t be surprised if traditional 35mm cameras were completely replaced by very sophisticated and high resolution cell phone like devices.  Cell photo cameras have gotten incredibly good in the past few years.  The technology is evolving at rapid speed and I don’t see it slowing up any time soon.

So the point is… the medium of photography is constantly changing, evolving AND reinventing itself. That in itself is a very exciting thing. We have come a long way since Stieglitz, Strand, Weston and Ansel Adams. Just think of the possibilities – they are infinite. With that said, the photographic industry is dramatically different than it was 10 – 20 years ago because of the nature of the digital medium and the competitive global economy we live in.

Photographers are going to have to forge their own paths into the digital terrain and carve out  professional lives and careers. They are going to have to come up with new ways to market their professional services. It is going to take ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurial chutzpa to harness and ride the digital wave.

Joel and Miguel Photographing Egrets from the Boat

Joel and Miguel Photographing Egrets from the Boat @ El Salvador Photo Walk

There are endless opportunities for all serious photographers and the winners will be the ones who tap into a void that YOU and you only can fill with your innovative ideas and creative photographic vision.

Your thoughts??? Would love to hear your comments.

also check out my blog post “Has Photography Lost its Soul”


12 comments on “Is Photography Really Dying?

  1. Patrick Keough
    December 19, 2013

    Reblogged this on Vasatransmedia.

  2. David Williams
    December 19, 2013

    Interesting read, thanks for sharing. Personally, I really wish “new” photographers would take a lesson or two with film. Remember when each click of the shutter actually “cost” money. More time went into composition, what would this look like if I took a step to the left? There certainly wasn’t any “hold and spray” shooting. 🙂 Anyway, great read and thanks for the post!

    • Patrick Keough
      December 19, 2013

      David, I have been teaching photography and critiquing photo students for 30 + years and I totally agree that photographers who have experience with analog photography and the wet darkroom seem to have a better understanding of the photographic process. We used to scrutinize our subjects so much more when we shot film and I think we took our time composing and conceptualizing our photographs. It all comes back to learning how to SEE and translate what we see photographically no matter what devise we are using for capturing images. There is a huge difference between snap shot photograph, point and shoot photography and professional photography. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Greg Urbano
    December 19, 2013

    First I don’t thinking painting is dead, here in St. Pete there are two places that do painting and wine classes that are almost always full on a regular basis.
    Second the guardian article has the guy saying – – “People taking photographs of their food in a restaurant instead of eating it,” says Olmos, I find that hard to believe, taking an iphone photo of a great steak and then just walking away?!?!
    Nothing dies, it just evolves.
    There is going to be less pro photography yes, but is that the result of digital cameras or the rise of video?
    This guy ever heard of!
    Video killed the radio star yet I still listen to a lot of things, on the radio and on my ipad as podcasts.
    Film is dead just like typewriters.
    But that hasn’t stopped a good story from being a good story, regardless of where it was written.
    That my two cents anyway, or was that a quarter, inflation…

    • Patrick Keough
      December 20, 2013

      No Greg…painting certainly is not dead. That was just a knee jerk reaction from the Parisian Academy when the Daguerreotype was introduced to the public. I agree great photographers are also story tellers and there are still many stories to be told with our pictures. Agreed! Nothing really dies as far as art and photo is concerned – they just keep evolving as technology evolves. Thanks for your 2 cents!

  4. regibubu
    December 19, 2013

    I think that now almost everyone can have a camera but not the Art of Seeing…Some will be expresing what they have inside when MAKING pictures and some others will be just clicking and TAKING pictures.

    • Patrick Keough
      December 20, 2013

      Yes Regina it is not so much the tool we use to make pictures it is the eye behind the camera and the more sensitive and hyper aware that eye, heart and mind the better the photographs are going to be. Great point!

  5. Stefan Y. Silvia Rivera
    December 19, 2013

    Great post as always Patrick… I don’t think art in general by itself is dying (painting / photography / other), but quoting the comment of Angelina Reese in your other post “you must feed your soul in order to have one”… art is not dying, people is loosing their soul and that’s what makes hard that an artist can live from art’s only, people is not taking the time to feed their soul: they don’t read anymore (as we used to read some time ago, novels, poems, etc. – I’m not talking about reading internet stories or blogs, but educational reading great for our souls…), they don’t take the time to go to museums, appreciate art in different expressions… art is not dying, photography is not dying… I think people is…
    It’s true that today is really hard for any artist make a living from art’s only and that’s when we all need to evolve, using the tools we have and adapting to the market (which is getting harder)… finally, I think there will be more people with cameras of any kind (iphone, ipads, dslr), but as we all know, the camera by itself doesn’t take good pictures… there will be really lots of pictures all over (-mostly food 😉 -), but as you pointed on your other post: pictures with no soul, and people can see the difference, even though it’s a good looking picture (sharp, vivid colors, etc.), with no soul, with no message… it will be just another simple picture, but real photographers will be always needed commercially and artistically speaking… to put their message and soul to be put in their photos.

  6. Patrick Keough
    December 20, 2013

    Excellent and thoughtful observations to my blog post Stefan! Our cultures are also evolving and people have a different appreciation (or lack of) for true art and great photography because of the inundation of visual imagery they are exposed to day in and day out. A discerning eye is something that is developed by study, research and having an understanding of the visual language. Yes indeed! Professional photographers will always be needed in any society who can make photographs that are technically impeccable and also have emotion, content and yes…soul! Thanks for your post!

  7. coreycannon222
    March 15, 2014

    Great article!! The picture of all the people trying to get a shot of the Mona Lisa?!?! really jezzzz just enjoy it!!! One thing I have noticed that drives me crazy about photography today Patrick, is the constant press to “shoot film”!!! I love film. I still shot it(not 35mm,120 holga and such) sometimes, I load it in my changing bag on my kitchen table, I develop it in my kitchen sink,I develop it with guess what…. Caffenol!!! I hang it in my laundry room to dry…I love my negs. I love my digital files. Art is art, When a writer is awarded a Pulitzer prize are the judged on the type of paper it was written on? Or a Noble Peace Prize do they get asked what type on pencil they used? Nope….I don’t think so. So I fell its great that cell phones are making memories much easier to save and share, especially as a father sharing those moments with loved ones.
    But the times they are a’ changing that’s for sure!! It is weird that there is a whole generation that has no idea how to develop film or anything before digital. That reminds me…..I NEED TO GET PRINTING!!!!! Really hope to catch up with you soon Patrick, it seems like you have been doing well. I hope you have safe travels and a great weekend!!!! -Corey

  8. Patrick Keough
    March 16, 2014

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment Corey! I love film as well, but you are correct. It is all about the image and film, digital, holga, pinhole are all just great tools for the image maker to use to capture unique and visually dynamic pictures. Yes…it is hard to believe we now have a generation of young people who have no idea how to use film. I am glad I was around to learn and teach analog photography. Digital is great and easy, but there is something intangible about film and how it records and translates a subject. Keep shooting Corey!

  9. Pingback: Society for Photographic Education Conference Presentation – Is Photography Dying | KeO BLoG

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