Monday, 12 March 2012

Does the photographic 'moment' still exist?

Kodak based their photography around the idea of capturing the 'moment', in the sense of those times you want to cherish and remember. Analogue played a big part in those moments being special or 'one of a kind', since you only had a limited amount of photographs available to capture, with film you had to choose the best to photograph. Nowadays with the accessibility of photography and the potentially limitless amount of photographs we can take, is that 'moment' lost?

Virtually everyone owns or has access to camera, be it an SLR, a compact or a camera phone... People are forever taking pictures, it has gone from a rarity and special occasion to have your photograph taken to something we take for granted. We generally have a camera of some form on us at all times, as a result we are no longer in search of that 'moment' but rather an opportunity. I don't mean to negate digital photographs as we do all have ones of special occasions but so many of them are of seemingly unimportant scenes. We all use photography as a method of documenting our lives, Facebook becomes a prime example, featuring a variety of images from drunk nights out with friends, to a yummy plate of food we just ate for dinner. 

Photography becomes a social means of communicating, telling others something about us and what we have been up to. Sadly through social sites, I struggle to take a photo without thinking I must upload this. Making that 'moment' no longer a prize possession that you'd happily reflect on alone but a way of showing off. I find that photography currently is about the telling of stories, no longer a few special photos but a vast collection of the events of our lives. 

The reason for this is photography no longer involves any skill. With current technology anyone can point a camera, on an auto setting, and take a nice enough image. This evolution means what once involved a great deal of knowledge and ability, is now so simple toddlers are capable of taking photographs. I'm not suggesting they could operate an SLR to great effect, but they are perfectly capable of capturing an image. Therefore I do find labelling these types of photos as photography unfair as, the user has done very little work other than point and shoot (purely relying on the technology), undermining the efforts done by professional photographers, suggesting what they do is one and the same.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Tacita Dean's Turbine hall film

The Turbine hall at the Tate Modern has recently been hope home to Tacita Dean's homage to film, as she see's it as a soon to be extinct medium. Her film shows the possibilities of editing 35 film, and the true craftsmanship that painstakingly goes into the eventual reel of film. Working alone and compiling shots together by hand, using traditional techniques to mask in overlays.

Dean is in no way against digital film but doesn't want to see it eclipse a much loved possibility of film-making. Currently analogue film's use is arising again through young artists. Is it not possible for these two platforms to co-exist, where practitioners at least have the choice to choose between them. The Soho Film Lab was the last UK practice to still print 16mm until its new owners Deluxe, terminated immediately its production in mid-February. This was apparently done as it was no longer being used by the cinema industry, but it through them that the industry is able to print 16mm film, by stopping it they are giving the industry little other choice than that of digital.

It is down to the lack of trained professionals who can handle analogue film that is resulting in it's steady 'phasing out.' As shown with Dean's Turbine piece, who came across a potentially serious issue in the cutting of the film, where white flashes would be seen between each frame projection of the film only a short while before installation at the Tate Modern. A professional negative cutter from the UK, Steve Farman, had to recut Dean's film and then drive over night from the Amsterdam studio back to the UK to pass the film onto the Tate Modern's curator. This highlights the current loss is technically trained professionals, as if they continue to decrease (Steve Farman being the last negative cutter in the UK) then future for analogue film truly is looking bleak.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Fake or forgery?

Photographers and agencies have become known to manipulate images to that all important sensational shot, securing sales to the media. One particularly well known example was from 2008, where a doctored image of 4 Iranian test missiles below (top) was 'captured' and featured on a variety of news sites and internationally sold newspapers. Supplied by the Agence France-Presse, who claimed they obtained the photograph from Sepah News, the image includes a fourth rocket covering up a grounded missile (that apparently failed during the test). The inclusion of the extra missile dramatically improves the composition and leads to a more exciting shot for media sites and papers to run with.

It wasn't until the following day that another photo (bottom) was released, revealing only 3 missiles launched at what appears to be the exact same view point.

Below are images taken by Brian Walski, a Los Angeles Times photographer. the photograph is of a British soldier in Basra overlooking a Iraqi civilians while under hostile fire. The top photo is the manipulated result of the two below, merging the commanding pose of the soldier and the man clutching a young child.

Walski clearly altered the image to a more powerful composition, which was published as the front page photo. However, his alterations were noticed by some of the journalists and Walski was later confronted a sacked after confessing to his modifications.

Although Brian Walski deserved to be fired for his actions, his photograph although dishonest didn't alter the content to any great significance but ruined he reputation and credibility as a photographer. His dismissal was met with great criticism by Pedro Meyer, fine art photographer and author. "They (the LA Times) have fired someone for doing a professional job in trying to come up with a better picture, the same way that any of their journalists polish a text so that it reads better and is succinct. (why should a photographer be deprived of doing exactly the same that other professionals are doing on a daily basis as long as the information is not distorted?). The only explanation I can find is that by accusing the photographer and attempting to portray themselves as publishing 'unmanipulated' news, they are seeking to conceal the factual reality of their biased and one-sided presentation of the overall news. That seems to be the more important issue at hand."

I can only disagree with Meyer comments, photographers especially journalist/media photographers have a responsibility in supplying true images of actions and events. We don't expect, nor want, to be mislead by adapted photography that produce a more interesting shot, although the alteration in this instance was more innocent than others it ruins the trust between photographer and viewer. As Meyer put it 'journalists polish a text', but they do this through choosing quotations to include not shifting words around to create a desired comment. Photographers can touch up saturation and enhance colour and lighting, to an extent, to produce a crisper and more aesthetic a photo, but not pick and choose elements to include to produce a better image to depict a scene that never existed. As put by Frank Van Riper in an article in response to the manipulated image and Meyer's statement, 'news photographs are the equivalent of direct quotations and therefore are sacrosanct'.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Is it real?

As mentioned in the previous post digital footage can be edited so to suggest a better or more exciting narrative. This is no different with photography, the media has surprisingly frequently included whether manipulated images whether intentional (commissioned photographers) or unintentional (submitted by photographer alone). There have been many great examples of this as long as photography in the media has been around. 

Below is a picture of civil war generals from 1865, where one of the commanders wasn't there for the original shoot (bottom) and was later added into the composition (top). 

Another example is through the below image of Stalin. He was known for removing enemies out of his photographs. On the right a commissar was later removed after falling out of Stalin's following. This reminds me of the dictatorship present in George Orwell's 1984, where passages of text from books and articles are continuously updated so as to present information in the favour of 'the party', rewriting history to be as they saw fit and beneficial. People were left (although not allowed) to question what is/was true, where on occasions their memory contrasted to the (supposed) written fact. 

Some occasions are somewhat more innocent than others, with no real misleading intention. Whereas others take advantage of the naivety of the viewer and our trust in photography and the media. The following photo was virally spread through emails and online. The image combines two photographs one of a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter by Lance Cheung and the other of a Great White shark by Charles Maxwell. As can be determined by the background the helicopter was shot in front of Golden Gate Bridge, where Great White sharks are commonly (never) seen. Perhaps ironically the photo of the shark was actually taken in False Bay, South Africa. 

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Videography – film or digital

Here is a film demonstrating a comparison between analogue and digital footage.

The video is clearly very biased towards film as the better 'more beautiful' medium. It brings up the interesting point, that digital can easily be edited and offers a simple means of adding effects or filters. However, in this case they aren't done for any desired result other than for showing a sample of what can be produced digitally. This highlights how easily amateurs are able to create videos of their own, through the use of rather childish effects. This undermines digital film by seemingly saying 'look at some the cool shit we can do...' through chucking on a variety of absurd and random effects. In turn it highlights the questionable truth in film, showing how footage can be altered to give or convey a desired meaning. The poor, heavy overlay of music for the digital footage immediately unsettles the viewer causing them to further dislike the already bewildering array of digital styles. Compared to the soothing music played over a selection of calming analogue shots of nature. Already the editor is manipulating the viewer to conform to their view of film over digital.

I myself am not against film as a medium but see this video as a prime example of the 'honesty' of any type of video. The editor has chosen or created particular footage to get across their opinion, through an unfair and rather absurd comparison. Digital clearly does provide the possibility to further alter the truth of recordings, by the ease at which they can be edited. Most people nowadays own or have access to software to apply effects and edit footage to their liking, ruining it's original documentation to their own version of the 'truth'. It could be as simple as modifying the colour or the cuts between certain clips, that convey the narrative in a different way to how it was when initially recorded.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The fall of Kodak

Kodak's former vice president Don Strickland, gave the reason was to why he left the company in 1993, "We developed the world's first consumer digital camera but we could not get approval to launch or sell it because of fear of the effects on the film market... a huge opportunity missed." It was the next, seemingly inevitable, transition that meant Kodak can now only be remembered in the history books. As other companies such as Canon advanced forward into high end and commercial cameras for amateurs and professionals, Kodak still held on to what they knew best – film. 

Kodak made what they refer to as the first digital camera in 1975, that took black and white photographs. Kodak never truly pursued this technology to any great extent or capitalised on the future market. All too soon Kodak was left in the wake of other photographic companies and their technological advances. Digital really was becoming the future, through the evolution of computers, laptops, tablets and televisions, cameras needed to keep up with the flow of this digital progression. This resulted in the public purchasing cameras to document their own occasions and not just professionals and the media. 

"No-one wants to be in the low-end compact camera market any more. Other, more profitable, camera makers are gradually pulling away from this market,"  – Chris Cheesman, of Amateur Photographer magazine. This is particularly true of modern day, where predominately everyone owns a camera phone becoming an instant replacement to cheap compact cameras. People always have their phone on them and offers instant access to the image with the ability to upload to sites (such as Facebook) especially on smart phones. This left Kodak trundling around in the footprints of their other competitors as they developed digital photography. 

Quotes from