Monday, January 12, 2015

From Diana Cameras to Smartphones

When Nancy Rexroth’s photographs made with a Diana camera appeared in the magazine Aperture I immediately went out and bought one. My Diana photographs I wasn’t terribly impressed by and stopped making them. Before seeing her work, I was shooting black and white film with an 8x10 view camera, using the Zone System and mixing darkroom chemicals from scratch. I was a hardcore technical photographer dreaming of getting to that Ansel Adams level of technical photography. I never got there.

I am now a restrained technical photographer who very much admires the work of Thomas Struth and under the wrong set of conditions, I would go out and try to emulate the type of work he does and even attempt to do better work than his. But I have been taken by what you can do with a smartphone and sorta see it as the new Diana camera.

What I liked so much about Rexroth’s Diana photographs is that she was making amazing photographs and not using a view camera, the Zone System or mixing her own chemicals. There are a lot of photographers today who talk about technical photography being over. To me Jeff Wall and Thomas Struth are the proof that this is not true. But a whole lot of unnamed smartphones photographers are proof that being a good technical photograph is not terribly important anymore. Almost anyone with a smartphone can be a good enough technical photographer instantly and then it becomes all about vision.

Hurray for contemporary technology! I still use both digital cameras and phones and have no plans to stop using a digital camera. And some days I even think about getting some film and using my view camera again, which hopefully I won’t do. Look at all the options - make your own exhibit on Flickr or Instagram, make a monograph for free with iBooks Author, shoot and distribute stock photographs right from where you take the photograph. Doing an exhibit online does not reach buyers with anything close to the impact of what a physical gallery or museum can do for a photographer. And a book done without major publishers and distributors very few people will ever see. But this a good start from just storing photographs on computer drives that no one ever sees.  Wow! what an exciting new world of photography. I can’t wait to see what comes next.