This is an article theme that we are used to read since several decades. It has been evoked when the roll film has taken over the photographic plates. It happened again when compact 35mm film cameras have sweep the larger format ones. It happened again when electronic cameras push the mechanical ones to obsolescence. It happened another time with the apparition of the digital photography. And now we are speaking of the end of the D-SLR type domination in favor of the mirrorless camera’s devices.
But there is another phenomenon that is may be a far more preoccupation for all the supporters of the traditional photography. The lifetime of all the present photographs has been cut to almost nothing, from the documentary and archival purposes to the actual instant consumerism with no intend preservation. Images as a whole, have not been so present into your society but individual iconographic representation are vanishing almost as fast they will appear. Photography have loose one if not its most important task: preserving those precious moment as testimony of our human presence.
In search of a (durable) purpose
The history of traditional photography is a very fascinating one. Its peculiar story has demonstrated right from its start a huge popular interest for the new visual medium. Even with its very limited initial technology, photographers of all over the planet and any conditions have found different ways to express their art and to share theirs results. The pace of photography in our society has been frenetic right from its beginning. People were very aware about the real potential of photography and they manage to use it.
Almost all the greatest themes in photography have been exploited during its infancy. Travel, documentary, scientific, journalistic, fashion, portrait, family, abstract, nude, nature and many more have been the core pretexts to do pictures and printed them for prosperity. Because photography can be a precise and detailed medium, it offers a very rich testimony of the past and present that is describing more meticulously our surrounding and ourselves.
It is now more difficult to us to apprehend the major role that photography has stand for many decades to our recent civilization. Because the importance of history and its study has been depreciated in our present consumerist society, (authentic) photography tend to be less and less popular. Places or media channels to show and preserve it are disappearing at a fast pace. Many recent tentative have failed to reintroduce an appeal to enrich ourselves with pictures that are revealing all the aspects of this civilization without the pollution of marketing censorship.
In search of a public
Photography has been for almost two centuries one of the most favorite way of visual expression both artistically and for documentary private or public purposes. All kinds of public were demanding for pictures and we have seen a plethora of photographic different channels overtime that fulfill the everybody visual appetite. Today it would be inconceivable to live in a world without the iconographic contribution. And photography is still « the » universal language that most of us can refer without prevention or the need of special translation. For sure the problem of the different photographic interpretations for the same image is still a challenge for the various publics of this planet.
Although the demand seems to be ever growing, by a strange phenomenon, traditional photography had loose most of its presence and have been replaced by the « photo illustrations » who are creating totally controlled (often fake) visual universe to fulfill more often their promotional task into the commercial, social, economic and politic fields. As I have state elsewhere, authenticity has simply been put aside in favor of idealization of the iconic representation. People have chosen to be reassure in their vision of this world instead to stay inform and actively reactive. Photo stories based on reality without too much filtering have no longer general channels to get diffused.
Which is bringing us to the Internet alternative often seen wrongly as the life buoy of many traditional media channels. That initial perception of an open, free and universal way of popular communication have been changed for the todays highly commercialized Web tool that its sophistication has pushed aside the less fortunate communicators. Even the (private) social media channels have imposed specific user constraint that have mainly standardized their contents.
If I am very critical of today’s photographic diffusion channels, it is because it seems that the most interesting and provoking contents appears to be totally evacuated in profit of those never-ending standards edited (winning contest) pictures. We are the « Don’t Rock the Boat » civilization preferring the comfort of a repeating pattern instead of the disturbance of the difference.
Sure, we are moving ahead. Human stagnation never has been an enduring option for the future. We need to progress, to evolve and to elevate ourselves. And into the need to move ahead, there is a basic curiosity stimulus that give us a strong motive to try, to push, to jump on the other side. What is photography if not an act to project ourselves through a visual flash of reality that is recorded into a virtual support that we share with others.
Photograph is an act of self-expression which allow us to select a special moment of time, a special space and subject arrangement of a fading reality. But fundamental photography is not a pure invention issued from our imagination that is simply using light effect and an object or subject drawing to create a completely virtual universe. So, is there always a place for a more « realistic » photographic quest? Before saying yes for sure, we have to ask ourselves if we are still interesting about this world surrounding us or if we think that we are now enough self-sufficient in every way for evacuating any « outside » disturbances that are questioning our selfish behavior.
The recent world crisis has forced us to refugee ourselves in a very secure cocoon to simply survive further. What will happen next? Do we want to reopen humanity to its diversity and share its rich culture heritage? Can photography be able to participate to a new emancipation of the people on a universal level? For that, it has to be seen what our choice in this crossroad of the future will be.