My friend Charlotte Gibb has honored me with an invitation to write a post about photography for her blog. Although I have been involved in the photographic arts since childhood, having personally known and studied under a couple of the great photographic artists, I simply remain an amateur who pursues photography as a form of personal expression. My education and professional background, however, has made me into a better writer than a photographer. As it may be, I’ve become a sometime critic and philosopher of the genre.
Ugo Cei, in his recent article, “Will the Real Landscape Photography Please Stand Up?” has popped the cork on a bottled up controversy regarding social media and photography, one that has many complex undertones and implications for present-day photographers. His attention falls on three problems, but my take is there are those who see problems and those who see opportunities. My conclusion about the controversy falls into the latter arena.
The arrival of social media coincides “… at a time and age when everyone can have a decent camera for not much money…” as Ugo wrote. Not only have all the good places been seen in the best light, but all the beautiful calendar and postcard pictures have been made and delivered online as well. All those decent cameras have been put to use. And why not? That is the state of, the context of, global human culture today.
‘Real’ landscape artists will seek – and find – the motivation to do what all dedicated photographic and other artists do, which is discipline themselves to apply more creative thinking to their work, put less reliance on the mindless automata of the ubiquitous miniature digital camera, and worse, the mysterious, ill-defined “ways of seeing.” (More on that in a follow-up article.) They will revisit the causes that stimulate the ancient emotional human perception of beauty, and will redouble their efforts to hard work in pre and post-production of the final objet d’art. Or, they will simply disappear into the soon forgotten miasma of necessarily transient and ethereal popular culture.
I predict a new Renaissance of artistic expression in photography that reflects knowledge of the human condition, social and cultural psychology, ancient symbology, and aesthetics, which applies creative innovation to actualizing that knowledge. The formula is well known and simple: Hard work and unflinching discipline of intellect and purpose. We clearly see the results of what comes from the easy attainment of a photographic image. Just walk around, stop and push a button. Does it matter if the intent is Facebook or a fine art print? It should matter. The challenge for the new Renaissance artist is to make it matter.
David deSousa, February 2016.