Has photography in the widest cultural sense morphed in to something that isn't photography? Renowned director and photographer Wim Wenders takes aim at the smartphone.
In a short video essay, Wenders bemoans the constant click of the smartphone culture. Over his career of nearly 50 movies, he has had a number of Oscar nominations including the 2014 documentary “Salt of the Earth” about Sebastião Salgado. He was also a prolific shooter of Polaroids during filming and this has led to a touring exhibition called “Instant Stories” (recently at the Photographers' Gallery).
For a BBC interview, Wenders takes aim at the proliferation of cameras on smartphones and that, now, everyone is a photographer. Or rather, he starts at the end point which he identifies as the problem (smartphones) and then proceeds to outline some of the symptoms. The billions of photos, the throwaway sameness, the unreality of filters, the lack of reverence for the final image. He sees all these photos simply as disposable pixels that have a short shelf life. He believes the ubiquity of cameras, their ease of use, and the sheer breadth of processing options actually reduces the creativity of the photographer.
Thinking back on his film career, he identifies the lack of resources as a key driver in the creativity of the film process, forcing him to diversify his repertoire. He suggests this “sameness” has devalued photography as a genre. In fact, I would go as far to say that he identifies a lack of art in photography, so much so that it is not photography anymore. He sees it as something different, that is created with a camera. And he wants a new word for it.
Does Wenders have a point? Has the proliferation of smartphones and Snapchat filters changed the foundations of what photographers think of photography? Is it art? And is there a new word for it?
Photo by wilkernet via Pixabay.