Photography: What Is It Today?

We are in a very different time in the history of photography.

Many people never print a photograph. The creation and delivery method for the image is now the small phone screen, from creation to deletion:

Made.

Sent.

Seen.

Deleted, never to be seen again.

It’s more like note-taking and diary-sharing for a brief moment than it is photographs, which I qualify to mean printed images, art, pictures that you can hold in your hand and display in a location, print in a book or magazine. That might seem like antiquated thinking, but it really has been the definition of a photograph for the total history of photography, what a photograph is, something tangible that you can hold in your hand.

Photographs, Delivered.

A color Kodachrome slide was certainly a photograph, but it needed to be printed to complete the process and actualize it into art.

Today’s phone images don’t feel like photographs to me. For one thing, because the delivery device is so small, everyone pinches and zooms to take a closer look. That’s not how I presented the photograph–I expect the viewer to view it how I cropped it, how I intended it to be seen. But their device is too small. So it has to be viewed in chunks. Zoom over here. Check the expression. See the sky. Okay, done, deleted.

That’s why I don’t want my work displayed on a small screen. Why I prefer to show my work on large desktop displays or in actual prints.

There’ s no zooming and pinching on my prints. You can step closer, sure, but the image is defined, the story is told by the size and crop I intended.

For me, viewing images on a screen is too unsatisfying, too much of a let down. I wonder what the value is of Instagram, when the photographs are seen in a size slightly larger than a thumbnail for a split second before a swipe away.

The same is true for Facebook and Twitter and all the rest. It’s all we have right now, it’s what’s popular. (Remember, the populace could never be counted on to have good taste.) But that doesn’t make it photography.

It makes it something. And for many people, it’s valuable for what it is. My way isn’t the only way.

It’s just my way for me. Sharing photos on a phone just isn’t for me. I’ll stick to photographs that I can frame and hand to people, that exist for longer than it takes the viewer to swipe it to oblivion.

You know, photography.

Because looking at pictures on a phone with pinch/zoom/swipe is about as satisfying as watching fireworks on a TV. Print your Photos! Make Zines and Photo Books.

[You can see the Gifted Art Film Portrait project that I’m shooting in 4×5 Bergger Panchro 400 film here. 6x6portraits.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/gifted-art-film-portraits/]

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