Photography In The Age Of Tumblr: Traces Of Reality


1985.0060.1019 The National Museum Of Australia

Carried within each piece of film are traces of reality. Light bounces off something real, a person, a building, a flower, and intersects the film plane and the silver carried within it. The silver reacts to this physical process by turning dark. The more light the darker the silver. The modern day sensor found in today’s camera also interacts with the photons bouncing around our universe. But instead of a physical transformation of the recording plane, the photon just causes an electrical impulse. Reality is sloughed off like rain from a newly waxed car. The sensor is used over and over again, thousands of times. Each piece of film only once.

As I have pointed out several times in this blog, analog photography is tangible, digital photography is just an ephemera of 1’s and 0’s. Contemporary photographers view the camera captured image solely as raw material. As a matter of fact you do not even need a camera today to be considered a photographer. Just go to Google Images or anywhere in cyberspace and gather  your raw materials. The photographic arena of today is the land of Photoshop. No need to dirty yourself by going outside and interacting with the world or talk to people. It’s all on your computer. You don’t even need to get dressed. You can be a pajama photographer.

Therein lies the crisis of contemporary photography. The photograph has lost all veracity. Of course photographs have always been subject to manipulation but with film you always had a piece of film for verification. With a modern RAW file it is very difficult  and even impossible to verify the veracity of the image. The sophistication of the manipulations possible gets easier and easier. Obviously this is a problem for documentary and news images and I won’t delve deeply into it here. There are many sites and blogs that takes this as there main theme. But, what I see now is that simple landscape photographs or street photographs or actually any digital photograph will have it’s honesty questioned. I once showed a print of a cloud at sunset floating over some telephone wires. The first thing out of the person’s mouth upon viewing it was, “That cloud wasn’t really like that, right”? A cloud! She was doubting the veracity of a cloud?

I am presently shooting film exclusively. Not only for aesthetic reasons but for the tangibility of the object. The negative is my way of confirming the fact that I was at a place and saw something. And that the resulting photograph bears traces of reality. That cloud really was there. It hurts when I hear and see that today’s young photographers are afraid to go out into the world. They would rather stay inside in their studios and create imaginary worlds while texting their friends who they never really met face to face.

My advice; go shoot a cloud.


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