The "Robot Revolution" is already underway, but it's meeting pockets of resistance, including one based in our photographic community. Fans of America’s most-visited theme park and photographers alike have recently banded together to save a small group of talented professionals from replacement by machinery.
Recent news stories have covered the emergence of animatronic photography, with most machines still in a "beta" testing phase. And now photographers and fans of the Florida theme park are up in arms about the Disney Corporation reportedly gearing up to replace the park’s "Photopass Photographers" with photo booths.
A Change.org petition has been started to "Keep the Disney Photopass Photographers", amassing well over 90,000 signatures by the time this article was written. The general consensus reflected in the petition’s comments section is that a robot cannot capture the real personality and "magic" of a moment as a human can. Silicon is long on hardware but short on heart.
Disney parks have always thrived off the happy human premium of magic, from the dazzling spectacle of the Spaceship Earth sphere at Epcot to the musical performances and parades that seem to spontaneously materialize when you least expect it. Can replacing the crucial human eye of the photographer work in a magic kingdom?
Countless manual laborers lost their jobs to machinery during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. Robotic replacement is accelerating in our century. Supermarkets have expanded their checkout lines to computerized "self serve" kiosks. More and more fast food restaurants are replacing human order takers with robotic ones.
It's easy to kick your feet in the dirt and grumble that photography is going to hell in a handbasket, but I find it more productive to identify ways in which our professional and proprietary expertise provides something important, something valuable to people.
In our April article posted to Fstoppers about a roving wedding photography robot, one discerning user commented: "It's just a rolling photobooth which are now common installations at many of the weddings I'm hired to shoot (i.e. so far, not replacing me). If anything, they reduce the number of selfie takers in the background shots.”
Do you view Disney's move to replace photographers with computer chips as a simple cost-saving measure or a sign of lower standards and an enlarged market for mediocre photography? Please share your ideas with us in the comment section.