Is photography dead?

2023, Favourite, Inspiration, Q&A, Teaching point

Serious question:

Is photography dead?

I know it’s still being practiced, and valued.

But first with digital, and now with AI, are we heading to a different destination… and to a point of no return?  A process where photography is simply a “made up” thing… more like a sophisticated painting vs. a record of reality?

In which case, is film-based photography not only the first but also the only “authentic” form of photography?


11 thoughts on “Is photography dead?

  1. I think personally the 14 day covid lockdown damaged my photography more than any AI or digital media.

    I find it extremely hard to get 10 photos in a year that I’m happy with now. Looking back I haven’t raised my standards.

    A interesting subject got lost for me. Hopefully I fix that.

  2. I wondered the same thing. Recently, I was in a camera store and asked the owner how business was these days, what with everyone using cell phone cameras. He said things were actually very good. That he had quite a few “youngsters” that were buying film cameras these days. I sincerely hope that trend continues to blossom.

    1. Me too, although the film companies are doing their best to price everyone out of the market.

      Regarding your experience at the camera store, here’s another data point:

      When I was photographing my daughter and her friends last week on their prom night, one of said friends asked if I could also take a photo of the group with her camera. She handed me an old Fuji point and shoot, loaded with film.

  3. I think in these times of endless manipulation or even imagination the real thing will get its own attention and value. You still have the choice how far you want to go processing your images – removing dust speckles or disturbing elements, the usual tone or contrast corrections and sharpening, removing scars in a portrait or inserting elements that were not there etc. and manipulating the background sky. Film has never been neutral in this respect, although in practice it has been affected to a lesser degree in everyday photography (but look at the masters who have been spending hours processing their images or even letting staff do the job).
    I find it important not to lie and say what you have been doing. Otherwise you can only use slide film and never scan it , but how do you want to share the images with a larger public?

    1. Hi Eva. Your point about film not escaping manipulation either is well taken. However, there is a fundamental difference between taking an image that was captured with a camera and enhancing what was actually recorded vs.describing an image to a computer and having it created from nothing. I’m not saying the latter is wrong per se, but it is different. And so at the very least, it would ideally be identified as such, but I don’t think that’s always going to happen.

      1. Very true. Artistic computer-generated contents may even be less problematic compared to the latest Photoshop tools that erase contents in an image you have taken by yourself and fill in new artificial ones. Makes me shiver! We may live to see declarations of authenticity in published contents!

          1. Unlike you, I am much into macro and especially insect photography (and astrophotography). My 20 Megapixel camera doesn’t allow much cropping. Nevertheless I try to produce naturally-looking images that show the insect in its surroundings. I keep finding that fellow photographers only seem to accept totally smooth backgrounds and a degree of sharpening that makes the image look like lifeless perfect computer graphics, not to speak of stacking in order to catch every little detail. I must confess that I envy some of them for their accurate and beautiful work. I am presently taking serial shots in order to get the best focus, but am reluctant to go any further. Sorting out from a series of 25 shots for every image that are sometimes almost indistinguishable is a chore and kills part of the joy. It makes me wonder whether I am about to waste precious lifetime on meaningless activities. So let‘s cherish imperfection! It must be my Leica heritage! As for astronomy, I have always preferred observing instead of imaging – taking in the sight rather than spending several nights for one good shot. I like simplicity, even if the wish to have something to keep and show is strong. A certain degree of laziness in photography may be healthy.

  4. Hi Peter. I have been meaning to get back to you on your last 5 posts. So, I will try to provide comments for all of them.

    Photography if not dead is becoming endangered as we have known it. A few years ago, I spent a week with Constantine Manos, a Magnum photographer who lives in Provincetown, Ma. I was so inspired by him. Costa, as he is called, has never cropped a photo in his life, and we could not crop any photos we took for the class that week. He believes that cropping is being lazy and that you become a better photographer and make better images when you can compose the photo in the camera. He spent very little time post processing his photos, not to mention his knowledge of LR and PS was quite limited. Yet, the film and digital photos that he has produced are amazing. But those who hold to the integrity of an image as taken by the camera are becoming fewer. Yet, like you I continue to hold on to the ethical code of photojournalism and street photography. Nevertheless, with photoshop, AI and who knows what, I suspect that most of photography will evolve into fine art. Yet, when you look at the the unaltered photos of the great masters of photography and when you consider the moments in history captured, it begs the question as to why we would want to replace them with fine art.

    Your baseball photos are wonderfully captured and make you feel like you are at at the game. In one series of your son, it appeared that he had hit a home run. Am I correct?

    Also, I noted that your son now plays the flute. Am I correct that he originally wanted to play the flute but the music director said that he had to start out with the saxophone? I think that I mentioned my granddaughter is playing the saxophone because her music director wouldn’t let her play the flute.

    And congratulations to your daughter. How quickly our children grow up. It must have been a very emotional moment for you on many levels. I am sure that she has exciting plans for the future. Good luck to her.

    1. Hi George.

      I have to admit I have never been as strict as Costa, as I crop fairly frequently. I do however respect his attempt to get the image right at the time it is being taken. Also, I almost always post-process and do not view that as being fundamentally different from what was practiced in the film era. Digital technology allows it to more easily be taken to the extreme of course, and that’s why there is a deluge of over-processed imagery out there (I know, I know, it’s all subject to taste… but to my eye, people tend to overdue it).

      Thank you for your comments about the baseball photos. And no, my son didn’t hit a home run.

      Regarding my son playing the clarinet. He was originally promised he could play the saxophone (actually, a few of the students were promised this) if he first played the clarinet. However, the music teacher never followed through with his promise (for any of the students).

      Thank you for your congratulations re: my daughter’s graduation. Yet it is very emotional as you suspect, for many reasons.

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