Being an artist, I think everybody assumes you’re ahead of the artistic curve and aware of the latest trends. But what happens when that trend is quickly and easily accessible to any “average” Joe who can get just as much recognition for it? What, then, makes your art special?
“PressPausePlay” (click there to watch it for free) is a documentary directed by David Dworsky and Victor Köhler that addresses the increasing wonders of the “digital revolution” that has occurred within the artistic community in the last decade. I watched this documentary for the second time last week and the words still resonate within me.
The documentary focuses on the advances of technology in music, such as the widespread availability of music software and the ability to share music worldwide without ever really having to leave your home; however, I was instantly able to relate it to my experience with photography.
I’ve been a photographer all my life. I know a lot of people say that, but, really, I have. My first camera was a Kodak Star 110 and I was obsessed with using it throughout elementary school to snap photos of friends and eventually “upgraded” to some cheap Bell & Howell 35 mm camera. It wasn’t until high school when I stepped foot into the school newspaper/yearbook classroom that I realized my love of documentary photography, developing film and making prints. Thankfully, I was able to borrow a Pentax K1000 and had endless amounts of 35 mm film and printing paper at my disposal.
This new found analogue love meant one thing- I needed a lot of time. Here I was, some newspaper nerd, trying to find excuses to cut classes to buy me extra darkroom time. In the beginning, there was a lot of trial and error, lots of test strips, spotty negatives and accidentally exposed paper, but once I was on a roll, it was hard to stop. It was quite easy to be “lost” in the darkroom for hours at a time, in a world that not many students got to experience.
But, fast-forward ten years (oh my, has it really been that long?!) and it’s no surprise to see children, who probably don’t even know how to spell their own last name yet, pick up an iPhone and snap a photo. Photography has advanced to the point where cellphones have their own photography category (iPhoneography) and budding photographers can easily spend thousands of dollars on the latest gear.
What does it all mean?
This digital revolution comes with a price. In the grand scheme of things, I believe there’s an odd dichotomy the revolution encourages. For one, to the untrained eye, all photographs may seem like good photographs, thereby lowering the standard of quality of photography overall. What I mean by that is, things like editing software and smartphone apps can instantly slap on a warming filter, add a dreamy haze-y look and make anything picture perfect. At a certain point, all the images start to blend together and, for me, become instantly forgettable. Sunsets are pretty… flowers are pretty… puppies and babies are pretty… but does that make them interesting photographic subjects? Does that make them good photographs? With that said, it becomes easier to predict the type of photographic images that becomes marketable and profitable, leaving those who choose to photograph anything else to fend for themselves.
Secondly, this digital revolution can feel as though it encourages the idea of “the bigger the better”. Digital photography gear is expensive- there’s no two ways about it. And it’s always evolving, so there’s no real way to always have the newest make/model (unless you have endless funds). I find that digital photography can quickly become the game of “who has the most expensive gear” versus, “who photographs the most interesting content”.
However, there’s always a pro where there is a con and “PressPausePlay” takes that into account also, which is, most notably, the ease of which we can share our love for all things digital and, consequently, make it widely available to the masses. Quite honestly, I love the fact that I can log into my Tumblr and instantly view art and photography from all around the globe and, hopefully, they’re viewing mine. In doing so, I think it creates discourse among artists about the content of art.
“PressPausePlay” caused me to reflect a great deal about how the digital revolution has, and will continue, to change my life, for the better and worse and I’d definitely suggest artists of all types to watch it.