The End of the Age of Photography – The Conclusion

It is five years since The End of the Age of Photography first appeared on bleakbeauty.com on Oct 20, 2007. It was also delivered as at a symposium at Stanford University, where Muybridge created much of his Animals in Motion. This is the Fourth and final installment.

The End of the Age of Photography – Part Four

Bring in the prisoner….

The Photographer is brought in, arms pinioned behind his back with plastic handcuffs. A small cattle tank of water is on the floor before him.
“Are we going fishing?” He asks in jest.
The man behind him, forces the Photographer to his knees than pushes his head into the tank, holding it there. When the Photographer emerges he is gasping for air.

“Have you changed your position about digital cameras?” asks the interrogator.
“Yes” sputters the prisoner.
“And why is that?”
Before he can answer his head is again forced into the tank.
“What did you say?”
Gasping for air, water running down his head.
“The G11”
“The Cannon G 11?” asks the interrogator. “You have one?”
“Yes I do”
“And did you have one while you were writing that digital was the end of the civilization,
and that people should assault people using Blackberries? You had a G11 then?”

“Yes, I did but I didn’t like it.”
“But now you like it?”
“I did like it, but I felt guilty, and I only used it for a year. Then I stopped”
“So you lied. You do not “practice what you preach” as they say. You are a hypocrite.
Anything else you would like to say, or would you like to do some underwater photography?

“I have a Leica!”
“Everyone has a Leica — in the closet. They are going into the dustbin of history.”
“I have a digital Leica!”
“You, the one that wrote 5000 words about the End of Photography, the end of civilization itself caused be digital, have a Digital Leica? What if this leaks out?”
“It cannot leak, sir. It has no film.”
“What else?”
“I have a waterproof cover on my Apple 4 I phone! I just got it.”
“In case your phone along your shit sandwich of “historical” writing are dumped into the tank along with your aging brain?”
“No sir. I have it because I might drop it into the river while I am photographing trout on the end of my line.”
“While you are making digital color photographs capable of being blown up to twenty inches across that you send to your children by texting, you mean!”
“Yes. I do all of that.”
“Get rid of the asshole. He probably texts while he drives too. A menace.”
Exit the prisoner, head bowed.

Comments
One Response to “The End of the Age of Photography – The Conclusion”
  1. Mike says:

    I just wonder if you would be interested in pealing the onion of your disenchantment?

    Yes, a rough age of empire. It has been a rough age of empire for three, maybe four hundred years, just not all ours. And may it continue, because we do not want the alternative. For Christ’s sake they managed to loose the recipe for a near portland cement in the fall of Rome. Never mind blacktop. Guess when we picked it back up? About the time of the first photographs. Forget worrying about the nature and availability of photographic materials. Little row’s of one’s and zero’s are not bad things. It is just a different way of saying the same thing.

    It would not have mattered if paper prints and negatives or DVD’s and USB sticks had been in the library at Alexandria. For the last 2000 years all we have known is they were destroyed in a fire and lost to history in large measure. A regrettable accident of history.

    Having a complete education in classical and jazz music from thousands of hours in the dark room I wonder today, after a 20 year layoff, at having my darkroom in my camera or at a screen these days. Detailed knowledge of chemistry, and paper making necessary to independently pursue print and film techniques were no more in my possession in 1970 than are the electrical engineering or programming details in the possession of digital photographers of today. Neither can put themselves on the desert island..I just fail to see any special distinction between the two situations. Photography depends on on industrial process. Nothing has not changed. Like peas in a pod.

    Frankly the technical basis is just not there for such ardent cynicism. This is a disappointment. Shake yourself out of it. I would be glad to go toe to toe on this point, even willing to lose. But, I would not offer friends any side bets.

    As to the authenticity of experience, I have my grandfather’s 6×7 negatives from the 1910-1928 period. We printed a few of them once. I went out with the same camera and photographed the farms, my grandfather’s hand built forge and different people wearing the same Stetson hats and put them up with prints from the negatives of that earlier era. No one was the wiser and it was great fun. It is as if fiction and non-fiction were used to tell a period of history. Of either modality in literature we do not complain, yet photography is somehow real? Symbols are symbols and so are transported more than the spoken word.

    It is unfortunate that the sweat, the dedication and the passion necessary to be a photographer has NOT changed. Now we may begin to include videographer as well, but we can no more be a W. Eugene Smith or Stieglitz or Weston today than in the 1970′s and 1980′s, but we have venue’s for our work unlike any before. That we have more stress and more injustice and more righteous indignation to display, as image makers we should complain?

    Photography is not dead anymore than music died because of the electric guitar or the saxophone. That my grandparents could not comprehend it is a separate issue.

    With sincere regard,
    ==m==

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