The Great Paradox: Photography is currently the most visually striking visual art (exhibitions, books, museums, media, etc.) and, at the same time, faces one of the greatest challenges ever - as we know it today.
1 - The Digital Age:
"But why not just kill the photo, there and then? Because she might want to look at it again. Because it meant something to her. Something? A great deal? Everything? "- Penepole Lively
Photography is the most important visual art in this new century.
The digital revolution allowed a broad expansion of photographic foundations, which fit almost every possibility. In the wake of an uncontrollable flow of images that monopolizes our daily lives without establishing borders - at the beginning of the 21st century humanity has changed and photography is the Word.
There has been a renewed interest in Street Photography over the past 15 years, which is perhaps the largest global movement to come in nearly 200 years of the History of Photography.
The world became flat again but through the screens of smartphones, computers, tablets, iPads, televisions, etc.
Our sense of reality and time is another. For good and evil.
On the other hand as all people can have photographic voice - with or without smartphones it poses a big question: what does each one have to say through the images?
Two billion photos and videos are published daily on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. And a large percentage is low quality photography. Of course most people have no pretensions or ambition to make great photographs. Copying almost always the same clichés use photographs as a means of communication, a game, an act of friendship, love, etc. It is not by chance that the word of the year, in 2013, for the Oxford Dictionary was: "Selfie." But, in parallel, there also proliferates an elite of mediocrity professionals - based only on thousands of likes and tastes of algorithmic decisions.
There are therefore more and more people who do not practice photography as Art and the Photographers who practice Photography Art exhibit and publish mainly for other Photographers. We act as actors in the world of images - photographing and wandering - as an endangered species!
As predicted by Susan Sontag, photography has become a cultural utility in a world where the insatiability of the eye it photographs has increased. And it has spread, especially in social networks, where the natural world is converted into algorithms - which people use to see their own existence confirmed. Increasing aesthetic consumerism provides more and more opportunities for new mechanisms of control.
2 - The reality that never existed:
I like to remember things my own way. [...] How I remember them. Not necessarily the way they happened. "- Lost Highway (1997).
The invention of digital photography and the greater accessibility of photo editing software have made it much easier, more frequent and perfect to change / manipulate images. As a result people no longer have the same faith in photography as a receptacle of truth. However, also in the "analogue era" the manipulation and the staging / manufacturing of images were already practiced.
Today as spectators and consumers of digital images, we are more aware of the obscure borderline between truth and fiction.
Curiously, Spontaneous Street Photography is closer to the apparent truth than Documentary Photography or to that of Photojournalism.
Street photography is like a third strip of a freeway - separate, but parallel to the banners of photojournalism and documentary photography alone (with which it is often confused). Although there are photographers dedicated exclusively to street photography, there are others who, in addition to street photography, also make documentary or news photography - temporarily moving to the next strip. Henri Cartier-Bresson himself did street photography as well as reporting. However the genres should not be confused even though the photographer is the same.
Documentary Photography has approached interpretive "Fine Art" - providing an alternative reality - being increasingly "staged" as was the case of Patrick Willocq's work "I'm a Walé Respect me" (2017).
Reportage Photo has been lying increasingly through more and more manipulation.
In 2015, 22% of the 6,000 competitors to the World Press Photo Contest were eliminated because they passed the red line of manipulation (subtracting or adding objects to the original image).
In the background the documentary impulse, when approaching reality, is at a crossroads where the divergent roads of Creativity and Fidelity leave.
The implementation of the Internet involved the multiplication, massification and democratization of images. We have reached such saturation, that the images no longer represent facts, but ideas and strategies of communication. Each photograph is a fiction that is presented as true. Against what they have made us believe and against what we think, photography always lies. Because reality is a lie of our senses, in consequence, photography is a lie about a lie. As there are more and more photographers, we conclude that people like to deceive the lie of reality with the lie of photography - in an attempt to build the perfect world that each idealizes. Built with our inner truth that is based on memory. But like photography memory can be questioned as a reliable source of information about the past. Because we like to remember things our way and not necessarily how they happened. Did we finally remember what never happened? As I mentioned the photograph with pose or staged has been playing an increasingly preponderant role. Maybe because it looks for a different truth about the facts that surround us. We often wonder if the most significant stories are those that are reported through images or are those that have finally come to count. Finally a word for the so-called digital art that implies photographic work without a photographer and where there is the creation of unrealistic scenarios ( with more or less taste) through a huge manipulation in Photoshop. I think it could be called before digital illustration since the artist in general does not even use the photographic camera.
3 - The Big Deal:
Does anyone know a photographer who is not award winning these days? It's like being published or exhibited or awarded or otherwise followed. - Nick Turpin.
Today we witness the assault of numerous Sites requesting the sending of photographs - promising international exposure and fantastic prizes to the winners of competitions. Competitions judged by pseudo-photo-celebrities and unknown curators on platforms run by people who live in photography without knowing anything about Photography. But the worst thing is that not only do we have to pay to get photographs in such contests but we also pay to be published - if they win - not the other way around! Of course, the respective opinions and reviews - on the photographic work of others - turn out to be, in many cases, mismatched - creating a false notion of what a good photograph is. At the same time they can create the disappointment and desistance of many potential good photographers - encouraging only a narrow and hypercompetitive social group. Obviously, favoritism and interest groups proliferate and favor the injustice of decisions. We see images obtained by anonymous amateurs (emerging talents) - as interesting as those made by some established photographers (especially those of the last century) - not to be highlighted while promoting mediocrity through awards that are now worthless.
4 - Dura Lex:
"Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it. "- Howard Zinn
New EU legislation through the new General Regulation on Data Protection (RGPD) results in greater limits to spontaneous and / or documentary photography. The legal regime for the protection of personal data in the European Union was substantially amended in 2016 with the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, which came into force in May 2018. The person responsible for the photographs must be able to demonstrate (mainly by means of a written agreement) that the photographed person (data subject) gave his / her consent to the processing of his / her personal data. However the same data holder has the right to withdraw his consent at any time. Or the community itself, paradoxically, tends to limit further the photograph made by humans while simultaneously watching an increasing use of images collected automatically (surveillance cameras, etc).
5 – Post-Photography:
"Sharing is the keyword of the digital age, and appropriation - or stealing - is a leading post-photography strategy" - Robert Shore.
There are those who use the term post photography as synonymous with photography digital. But what defines post-photography is: The defense of the recycling of images and the claim of appropriationism; the dissolution of the figure of the author with that of editor and curator; the arrival of the playful and simple; the dissolution of the boundaries between the public and the private through the possibility of "sharing" offered by the Internet today. In 1992, Mitchell published the book "The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era" where he suggested that the "post-photographic era" began in the 1990s with digital photography and predicted that digital technology would produce social and cultural changes that would render traditional photography obsolete. Its definition was based primarily on technology; any cultural or behavioral changes were merely the logical consequences of this technological change. The real world is full of chambers; the virtual world is full of images. What role do photographers ultimately have? Post-Photography attempts to answer this question by investigating the possibility of a new language of photographic imagery from the concept that everything has been done before. The images found have become increasingly important in post-photographic practice, with the internet serving as a laboratory for a great type of imaging experimentation. From Google Street View, to the automatic surveillance cameras. Given the abundance of pre-existing visual material in our hyper-documented world, it is not surprising that an increasing amount of photographic art begins with photos of other people. There is nothing new in appropriating images found for art purposes. They are replicated techniques of digital and analog times. After the book After Photography (2009) by Fred Ritchin appeared in 2014 "Post-Photography: The Artist with the Camera" by Robert Shore where the author defends that after all "Post-photography is a moment, not a movement". The book aims to be the first publication to look specifically at artists who are doing experimental works with photographs found in picture banks. Thus, in my humble opinion, post-photography emerges within digital photography, but it is not synonymous. For example, some people who use digital cameras do post-photography. Others, however, are simply using digital technology to practice traditional photography. Today, photography and post photography coexist. This is despite other, more radical authors (eg Kevin Connor) arguing that the "puberty" moment of photography was during the time when technology switched from analog to digital. But it was with the advent of the Internet-enabled smartphone that adolescence really set in. And this important change provided indicators that would eventually allow for further, deeper transformations approaching adulthood.
B - Prognosis.
1 - Of the Cyborgs and the Synthetic.
“So all we have to do is wait for those “seeing” machines” which can see and perceive in our stead.” – Paul Virilio
"The signs and symptoms diagnosed determine, as a consequence of the Prognosis being cautious and "reserved". After the new facial and object recognition software, the consequences of emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence - the potential of which is beginning to become more noticeable - is assumed. In the future, except in photojournalism, there will be no place for a descriptive photograph of what surrounds us; everything will be an amalgam of interpretations - whether performed by the photographer as author or with autonomy from the camera itself. The public will require more sophisticated, dynamic and responsive images to the desired changes, connected to reality by something more than a static two-dimensional rectangle of raw visual data - isolated in space and time. Through the signs of what has already occurred with the emergence of the smartphone revolutionary changes are predicted where the cultural presence of photography is not led by photographers, editors or camera makers, but by mobile phone engineers. And this process will be developed as companies take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies to use images in extraordinary ways. A new paradigm where we can quickly project and send perfect and livable three-dimensional images. The future points to ever-smaller mechanisms producing ever more extraordinary images. After photography, as we know it today, we will probably use glasses with mini digital sensors, which are also sensitive to other electromagnetic radiation (eg ultraviolet and infrared), linked not only to social networks but also to government organizations that monitor and control us processing and diffusion of new images. Taylor Davidson described the camera of the future as an application, software that would compile data from multiple sensors by combining it with visual data from both humans and their synthetic replicas. Premonitory is the scene from the film Blade Runner in which a replicant weeps disappointed when she discovers that the images and the memories of the child she owned were manipulated - just like her. However I am not as pessimistic as some authors who, to the rhythm of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, have already "killed" the photograph before it died. Signs like the current recrudescence of the analogue make me believe that, at least in the short and medium term, the static and tangible "decisive moment" of the analog and the ephemeral and "elastic" time of the digital will not only coexist but complement each other - mutually potentiating.
C - Therapeutics.
"If you deal with mythological stuff for a few years, you learn that paradises are usually places where you get killed." - Rick Riordan1
1 - Journey to a Paradise from where we can all be expelled.
It would be desirable that in a future digital-quantum world, it may be possible to reconcile the artificial with the human. Instead of using emerging post-photography just to delineate, document, and explore a post-human system. The big question is: will we be able to turn this moment into an opportunity to walk into a "light" era instead of the darkness of a Present where wars and terror reign? Let us dance in the light of ambiguity. Preserving the humility of those who observe. The simple act of observing can change the world - inside and outside of us. Say yes and, simultaneously, no. And continue to pose questions through photography. As long as we do not come to the possibility that we can be increasingly controlled through the images produced by machines, let us continue to photograph in analog and digital as we do today - not only because (like any other Visual Art) Photography makes people more happy - but above all because it will always be an important act of Love and Freedom.
If we remember that the look arrives first than the words - when the newborn recognizes and dialogues through the encounter with the eyes of his mother. We conclude that, after all, gaze is the most primitive form of communication - which Nature has given us and which integrates our DNA. Only later will words come and gradually forget the ability to understand us through the "wave frequency" of "SEE". However words will never completely replace the look. There are no words to describe what we feel when we look at someone we love. If we close our eyes, we will not have such a perfect notion of the room where we are - even if well described by words. That is, none of the other senses can overcome the look in terms of communication. The words of a writer are after all attempts to verbalize / explain the way he SEES the world. We are essentially "visual animals" and, I am convinced that as long as there are human beings the discovery of Beauty and Poetry through Photography will never die.