Saturday, December 8, 2012

Photography's New Aesthetic

Moncton Canada, Taken With EOS 7D, EF 28-105 USM ii Lens

I often wonder if photography is dying under the weight of it's own success. I see hints of this idea on other Blogs also. With digital cameras having unsurpassed capabilities, and nearly every household in ownership of at least one digital camera of some type, it has gotten to be the most democratic of all pursuits, especially with the social media revolution. 

In the past, the art of the still photo was taken very seriously, because it was set apart in a culture of it's own. To view the work of famous photographers, you had to buy a book, or go to an art gallery. It was completely distinguished from motion pictures and television, which was the realm of the Producer, Director and Cinematographer. In today's age, a video device can be held in your hand, and said devices make no distinction between movies, television shows, still photography, photo journalism, music videos, gaming video, etc. Everybody can now make any of these for themselves, and share it all to the world for free. Video News Networks make as much use of "amateur videos" of a news event as the do of their own working professionals, and the Networks in turn make this video available on all devices - televisions, computers and the latest wireless handheld. We are all saturated with imaging - constantly streaming at us to the point where our lives have become split 50/50 between viewing images and participating in real life. This is not a complaint, but it has me wondering where the art of the still photograph fits into  our modern world, even with hundreds of millions of them now being created and shared every day.

It seems to me that for photography to be enjoyed as it once was, it has to distinguish itself in a very radical way from more common forms of imagery. Photography still possesses the magic of capturing defining moments in time - that will never change. But in order to make people pay attention to the still photograph as a distinct art form, there has to be a whole new aesthetic to it; something that grabs the eyes of the modern viewer and attracts that person who is otherwise consumed with moving images to spend some time with a photograph.

I know that certain purists, even all of the ones I have great respect for, will disagree with me, but one way in which the aesthetics of photography have evolved to this end is in the so called "Lomography" movement. Even though it has been around for two decades, it is still going strong in gaining popularity, because it re-defines the art of photography in a true way. "Lomographers" have creatively discovered a new "secret sauce" which makes people stop and take notice. Basically, it is all about how to be very creative with the use of very cheap cameras, as the ones originally produced by the Lomo brand in Russia. This is pure Lomography, but I'll put forth an opinion that it has spilled over into a more contemporary form via the Smartphone and Instagram.

But aside from having that certain "look" of what a cheap plastic camera produces, which I attempted to fake in the picture above, true Lomography is also made good or bad, true or not true, by the presence or absence of "something happening" in the picture. It is a kind of "Neo-Romanticism" I think, in which some kind of action, preferably human action is contained in the picture, and the more impromptu and un-posed this aspect of "happening", the better. Therefore I am not a Lomographer. You don't need to use film, or a plastic toy camera to be a Lomographer (such a "look"is now easily and effectively faked through digital filtering.) I would say it has to be the "look" combined with "human happening" to make good Lomography. Personally I love looking at this stuff. It's fun, it's free, it describes the world as it is today, and it is one of those things that can only be described as "forever young". With all of this, it is one of perhaps a few important ways in which photography continues to march forward as an art form in its own right.

1 comment:

  1. Dave is an old friend for which I have always felt great respect for. He sheds a quiet inspiration to any that would care to sidle up and listen. My mind tends to wander to clear and reverent slices of feelings generated and engraved during unassuming exchanges with Dave in the past. He is one of a handful of people I have genuinely connected with on a common propensity for the dissection and discovery of knowledge.
    He has kindly shared his unsolicited words and keen vision on my experience as a photographer. It truly caught me quite off guard. I am not certain that I have as yet obtained the confidence for which his praise is deserved of. And yet, with the heartfelt accolades to which Dave has bestowed most unexpectedly upon me, I must say that the creation of a newer confidence has been stirred within.
    True and heartfelt appreciation that I harbour for Dave & his praise are difficult to express with mere words. But I am absolute in my certainty that he has the understanding of my sentiments.
    Dave, I hope that I have expressed my true intentions and that you don’t mind my sharing of your inspiration.

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