Photography has changed, and it’s time we admitted it.
No longer is photography about preserving a memory; now it’s about sharing the moment with as large an audience as possible. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest … these are today’s photo albums, no longer confined to that dusty old cabinet at home.
Today, practically every image taken is shared across the world instantly thanks to the vastness of the internet and the ubiquity of the smartphone. Chase Jarvis put it best when he said: “The best camera is the one that’s with you,” and what smartphone makers have done is place a quality camera with every one of us, for every waking instant. Call it the great equalizer.
Everyone, regardless of age, education level, or technical knowhow, is now able to capture what’s right in front of him or her with proper exposure and focus.
Just as developing rooms and exposure formulas have given way to Photoshop and Auto mode, so too has the need for software with steep learning curves slowly diminished. Now, there are thousands of apps waiting to be downloaded to your phone, which will allow you to get your image looking just the way you want, with nothing more than a few taps of the finger.
That doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get a great photograph. With everyone from gangly schoolkids to inquisitive retirees shooting photographs, every image is now just one of the 1.8 billion digital photographs being generated every day. The democratization of photography means that now more than ever, a picture has to be truly great to stand out.
Or maybe it doesn’t. The paradox of today’s photography is that for the most part, our images don’t have to last forever. Nor do they need to be “great.” They just have to be seen. Today’s photographs are all at once self-expression and communication, sent directly to an intended audience. Their value lies in the sheer virtue of their existence.
And that’s okay. Images that can only be captured by “proper” cameras with their faster response rates, low light capabilities, greater dynamic range and selection of lenses have their place too. Traditional photography giants like Zeiss and Leica seem to be getting it, as evidenced by their forays into the mobile world. Maybe it’s time we did too.