Phases of Photography

I had an interesting day on Monday wandering round the Photography Show in the NEC in Birmingham. The thing that struck me was the scale of the change sweeping through.

Firstly, there were only two places where analogue photography was in evidence: on a standing selling “rare and unusual” film stock, and on the disabled photographers’ society stand where some of the second hand equipment harked from that era. Other than that everything was digital.

The core audience of the show seemed to be 40-60 year-old men with DSLRs with large, expensive lenses hanging from their necks. And the big flashy stands – Canon, Nikon etc – as well as the several equipment retailers were clearly catering to that audience.

But the next wave of change in photography was also evident in the stands selling drones and those showing off software solutions which automate much of the difficult stuff of photography.

So far, it seems to me, the digitisation of photography has mostly replicated what was available in analogue photography. In the next phase, though, it is what happens after the picture is taken that will make the difference. Already smartphones have powerful editing software which can radically change what was actually taken. And startups like Lytro are taking this trend one stage further. Their camera actually shoots at multiple focal lengths simultaneously. So the photo you shoot is only one of several possible perspectives. This means it’s what happens afterwards which is important. And when you view the picture you can choose what to see. This intrinsic interactivity makes the photograph truly digital.

One thing is for sure – photography is changing again and the role of the photographer with it.

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