At least that’s how the saying goes. And it’s been like that for centuries in the form of petroglyphs (Images produced on rocks during the Neolithic period), hieroglyphs (Characters from the Egyptian writing system), drawings, painting, and of course photography. Visual representations of things have always been the easiest way for humans to communicate. Archeologist and historians managed to explain a lot of things by simply looking at drawing. Even today in what we call the modern era, signs can be found everywhere in our daily lives. Just think of the phone boot sign, the elevator, the WC. The graphical user interface (GUI - Everybody using a computer knows what the GUI is. It’s the interface we see on screen that translates clicks into operations at the machine level. Clicking an icon trigger an operation translated in computer language that is much more complicated to understand) found on our computers today is another demonstration that images or signs are universal and easy to understand. Every tech devices surrounding us is loaded with a GUI to simplify their operation and help us be more productive.
The times they are a-changing, Bob
That’s an easy one, a wink to Bob Dylan for his song “The Times They Are A-Changing”
About a century ago, photography was invented and went through a fantastic and speedy evolution. The quality of the photos we can get today is incredibly good. For decades photography was everywhere in newspapers, magazines, books, posters, marketing prints, etc. These were the days of film and prints. With the arrival of digital photography and the revolution of computers (Remember when Bill Gates (Microsoft) predicted there would be a computer in every home? Today we can almost say in every room!), a lot of people started to wonder what would happen to the print industry as we knew it. I remember the days when I used to work for a large newspaper in Canada. The digital wave revolution was a big shake up in the industry and those who could not see it coming and prepare for it are no longer. Lots of them. From advertising agencies to traditional commercial printer, everybody needed to make a big change, see things differently and reinvent the way they were doing business. Photographers had to do something too. Film still exists (marginally) and seems to enjoy some revival (it’s hot these days to be “vintage”), but anyone in the photography business had to jump in the digital wagon at some point.
The more things change, the more they’re the same
But let’s take a look at the photography business as it is today. Did it really change? To some level maybe. In terms of equipment as an example. Or maybe in terms of knowledge or competencies. The rules of photography still apply today (i.e. Aperture, Shutter speed, ISO, etc.) and having a “photographic eye” is certainly making a big difference. However, film processing and chemicals left their place to something different: software and computers. The learning curve was not easy for many of the old school photographer. The following generations were educated about computers, smartphones, tablets and software at an early age. They grow with all this, it’s natural. But let’s go back to the main topic: the photograph as a final product.
When you look at a great photograph, do you care if it was taken with a film camera or digital? Do you wonder if the files were scanned and printed or just “imported” and processed through some kind of image editing software? Of course not! Because a good photograph is a good photograph and that’s exactly why we still contemplate the beauty of famous photographers work from the past. And the point here is that photographs never stopped to be printed. There are more magazines in the stands than ever due to specialisation of interests. Name anything, there’s a magazine for it. There are millions of book printed. Brochures and catalogs are everywhere in the marketing industry. Personal printers can be found in every home and the photo paper market has never been so popular. There is nothing like taking a good photographs, work on it and print it. The final print is the most rewarding aspect of photography. Holding a Fine Art print is something special.
Add to that the ever growing popularity of online galleries, photo sharing sites, social media and all the portable devices that allow us to share and show our photographs, we can say photography never slowed down over the years. It’s actually growing. Hey, how many cameras did you have over the past 10 years? And think about how many cameras you will have over the next 20 years! You can probably compare that to smartphones market where we always consider a new model when it is released.
So yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And the book still has many chapters to be written. Humans used images for thousands of years, why would it be any different now or in the near future? As a photographer it’s a great feeling to know that I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life. Different tools. Different subjects. Different media. Different places. But still looking at the world surrounding me with a photographer’s eye!
What are you thoughts on this subject? Let me know if you have anything to share. Comments. Opinion. Photography is all about sharing and that’s why I write these blog posts regularly. You might have a different view or opinion and I’m always interested to hear about it. Thanks!
© Normand Primeau