Lloyd Hemmert, barber of 50 years. Taken on a Holga camera with Kodak T-Max 400 black and white film.

Will photography become obsolete?

As video and 3-d viewing become more ubiquitous in our LCD screen fueled world, I often wonder, will my art form, photography, ever become obsolete?  To answer this, I’d like to consider what photography does for a human being, and then decide if technology is offering to replace it with a superior experience.

Humans have an interesting relationship with time.  The passage of time and it’s attendant fears are what make us human. No other species tracks time. Everything about your life can be traced back to the passage of time, from the color of your coat to the rhythm of the music you listen to. If time were to cease to exist, we would be God, being omnipresent to all moments simultaneously – but we are not.

To count the passage of time is to be human.

A photograph freezes time and allows us to examine a split second of it for minutes, hours, even years.

This is an experience that video cannot offer.  Video is based on the passage of time. In some ways, it is an irritating reminder of our frail, 2 dimensional humanity.  A photograph is different from a painting or a sculpture. Such mediums are projections from the imagination of the artist, but they are portrayals of things that never existed in truth. They may be close facsimiles, but never a statement of a reality in the same way a photograph is.   A camera captures light that emanates from a being and freezes it in tiny bits of silver halide or bits of data.

I wonder if looking at a photograph may be the closest thing a mortal may ever experience to what it is like to be God, observing a thing without the limitations of time.  So long as humans have unsolved god curiosities and complexes, I believe we will always adore the still image.



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