A newborn child in Egypt was recently given the name Facebook. In the last few weeks, not to mention last year in Iran, there have been popular expressions of unrest. If there were no cell-phones, no internet , no TV, even radio, would the changes we have read about in the news these last few weeks and months seen on TV have occurred as they have? But the news of the world is not my beat, however what is new and how that technology changes our interest and involvement in photography does concern me and will affect everyone’s interest in photography at least slightly or maybe a lot. Every day I read the technology news of the day and it paints a very different scheme of things compared to what was familiar last year,the year before and would have been unrecognizable and unimagined before the year 2000.
The clock ticks and now it seems to be reeling off the seconds, minutes and hours full of things that make today a different world from yesterday. A very long time ago I was just beginning in photography barely knowing what I was doing. But I did learn little by little and realized you have to know and understand the tools you are working with if you want to have any control over what they produce, whether the image you make is a success or a mistake. Maybe I concentrated too much on how it works and how to use a camera and the photographic process, because today I am not known for the images I have created but for my understanding of the process. But that too may be the result of my own choices going after the challenges I was best suited to meet.
These days I am kept busy helping others stay ahead of the game, and as fast as new technologies emerge and are spread around the world now, more and more photography enthusiasts are being overwhelmed in dealing with the tools and processes before the next upgrade and the last has left them little room to maneuver. Just looking at all of the details, news about yet another version of the iPad or iPhone or a tablet from HP and a new Amazon movie internet service may seem overwhelming, and it is even to someone with years of gathering information like myself. But what keeps me grounded and able to deal with it is the fact that the core processes of photographic reproduction remain intact, the new technologies are really just refinements and embellishments that if fit into place have made it all easier. I would not trade my computer for a wet darkroom of the last century, no way, no how, for any price.
But if for some reason I wanted to resurrect my old darkroom and do photography as I did 20 years ago, the challenges involved in doing so today would be enormous, and the costs unaffordable. Making the clock stop running and going back to the past has an emotional appeal, but the comforts it afforded 20 years ago would be gone because almost every tool and supply you would need would be hard to find if available at all, so whatever comfort you remember from those old days would be replaced with a myriad of irritations and frustrations. For the very few meeting such challenges has its own rewards, and I give much credit and admiration to those who devote themselves to preserving and keeping the past alive. But I don’t think most of us are cut out to be antiquarians, and I for one am too curious natured to not be fascinated by what the next day will bring and what new world the imaginative has waiting for us to explore.
If there is a conflict between the fast moving future and the past, it may be interesting to consider and understand, but there are bridges between the past and future, and they aren’t always recognized and valued. In the last decade or so, I have been receiving and answering mail from Shutterbug readers, and a very large number are from older photographers, some just about to become a part of the senior society, and many already there. A very large number of these readers apparently recognize some distinct digital photography advantages that the format offers, easy storage and duplication so the images they have from their past can be duplicated inexpensively and easily and conveniently shared with relatives and friends. In other words one of the more frequent subjects on reader’s minds is scanning their old slides and negatives as well as prints, so they can easily be stored, reproduced and shared with others. Interestingly, this interest involves one of the universal human values people have in family, which is common to almost every ethnicity and culture in this world. In other words a basic human value overrides the difference between new technology and the past, and allows the past to have a renewed life as part of our history of our own lives, family, friends as well as the events and places in our and our family.
No matter how different today and the future may seem, there are bridges that connect them with what is important to us from our past.