THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
On Saturday I had on my photographer hat to give a talk for the Bali Creative Communityâ€™s day long Creative Entrepreneurâ€™s workshop. I had planned to talk about the importance of keeping the flame alive during our current economic downturn.
As it turned out the speaker before me was music entrepreneur Robin Malau, who gave a very organized presentation on his laptop. Loads of microstock images were used quite cleverly, and it changed my opening paragraph. I ended up starting out with talking about how microstock and super cheap stock has really posed a serious threat to photographers of the film generation (read older) who worked under very different circumstances.
Being amongst that generation I can certainly say that it has been a steep learning curve. Photographers in general tend to be inventive, thus many of us have pushed on and almost literally had to relearn our trade over the last 8 or so years since digital starting becoming viable. That said, though I would never say that I know everything about digital photography, I can say that I am comfortable enough with it that for the last 5 years I have practically shot nothing but digital. And now I like it a lot!
But the resistance that a few older, leading photographers have to digital is often not coming from where we would think it does. Much has been made of the quality of analog over digital. In fact digital has in some ways surpassed analog in quality and resolution.
Yet sometimes it’s surprising to find out the real reasons for the reluctance. I had dinner last night with an old friend, Magnum photog Abbas, who still doesnâ€™t shoot digital. His main objection was that to get the quality the cameras have to be so damn big. Ditto James Nachtwey. I am with them on that. I love my D3X for its incredible resolution. And my D3 for its demon speed and incredible hi iso, low noise rendition – but it positively menacing to use on the street. I am kind of liking the smaller D700 I picked up last week – not quite as fast but much more discreet. Why has no one made a decent digital rangefinder (donâ€™t get me started on the flubbed Leica M8)?
If we talk about work-flow nowadays it’s all about what we do on our computers – we often forget the â€˜pre-shootâ€™ prep. The ease of digital can be misleading. One can get a decent, usable image from start to finish at record speeds. As there are plenty of new photogs out there using sophisticated cameras and laptops who are willing to work for not much, the pressure for survival is on â€“ that is the popular view, and itâ€™s not wrong.
But what all this technical glitz camouflages is the need for the photographer to be just as creative and relevant as he or she always had to be in previous eras. Because itâ€™s not about technical prowess, it has always been about the spirit behind the image, the training of mind and eye, prep etc.
Unless you want to end up pumping out bulk generic images, there is no future in going robotic. Itâ€™s still about being a mensch. In his presentation Robin pointed to a statistic: on average it takes 10,000 man hours to really become succesfull and a master of your profession. Then I would add there is exploring, passion, an open spirit, flexibility, risk taking, motivation. All that in one clickâ€¦.