I often think back to what it must've been like being a photographer before the birth of the Internet, the social media craze, and the hunt for likes, shares, and follows. Photography was less convoluted before the dawn of the digital age, with specialist magazines and museum and art gallery submissions showcasing only the cream of the crop. Browsing through old magazines and reading the articles, it's clear that the top-tier photographers stood out amongst the rest of the crowd for their raw skill in their art form. Their images meant something to many of those who took the time to stop and look at it for longer than two seconds.
In modern days, things are quite different when looking at the multitude of platforms available to freely publish your own work. With the seemingly slow death of the magazine industry and the huge number of people using online image platforms, it's almost as if the images we post online have become lacking in substance. Is it because we're just exposed to so much more?
I can't remember any of the images I just liked on Instagram about an hour ago, yet I seem to recall images I saw in books when I was younger that have managed to stand the test of time. Was I exposed to less imagery back then? Is it all becoming so convoluted now because of the digital age shoving images in our faces every chance it gets?
While we desensitize ourselves due to the sensory overload in the form of a million of images per day, the modern-day digital age has also given everyone with access to a computer or mobile phone a voice. And while it's a great form of communication, it's mirrored by what can be seen by some as an almost narcissistic need to be heard. Are the days of studying and constructively criticizing photography as an art form truly gone and replaced by some 14-year-old kid with bad acne, endlessly trolling Instagram and Facebook pages?
What has this done to our favorite art form? While the world is moving toward an ever-growing "PC" way of life, are photographers getting scared of posting images of a possible controversial nature online? If images of Viet Cong prisoners being shot in the head at point blank range or self-immolating monks were posted online today, the image would be spammed with a thousand comments on how this isn't right and how dare this photographer post images of this nature, before ultimately being reported and taken down. After that, no one would bat an eye. But remember what an impact those images had when you first saw them years ago? Nobody back then gathered their pitchforks and torches before heading off to go lynch the photographer.
And while I don't believe we'll ever see legendary photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Ansel Adams again, I do believe we will witness an evolution of our on-screen aliases trending across the globe for a few hours or days before another photographer creates something different or slightly more controversial (these days, controversy seems to only be measured by the amount of Photoshop being used on magazine covers). Are all of us perhaps becoming as disposable as the cameras we once shot with?
Yet somehow, something inside me still clings on to the belief that photography as an art form will prevail as it has over so many decades.
As somber and negative as this article may sound, it's not without a glimmer of light; the access to social media has also given everyone access to showcase their images to the world. No longer are we exposed to just a few amazing photographers around the globe, but we now have a choice to follow a few million photographers and their photographs, giving us the opportunity to learn faster from the photographers we view online and share our knowledge to those eager to learn. It helps us connect with like-minded creative individuals in order to share ideas quicker, work together, and source new clients. It's basically become the modern day word-of-mouth. Thus, you won't see many photographers packing their gear away to gather dust in a basement cabinet somewhere and take up accounting. Instead, we all learn to adapt to our ever-evolving world.
So as I'm finishing this article, I'm preparing to head out to the coast for a little holiday. My camera's batteries are charged, lenses cleaned, and sensor dust-free. My camera and I are ready for another adventure ready to be posted on my Instagram profile.