An interesting thing happened a few years back.
There were two new music formats out. MP3 and a DVD - Audio. MP3 won, and DVD -Audio is dog biscuits. Why? MP3 was convenient. Oh, lower quality than even CD but so what? I recall reading at the time to get the monty out of DVD - Audio you needed to go to Richer sounds with a dump-truck full of money. Or you could buy an iPodule.
Much the same has happened with cameras. What fundamentally is revolutionary about the digicam? Well my Sony Alpha 55 is much the same as my Pentax MZ-50 film camera in many ways. What is different is ubiquity and the price per shot. This laptop has a camera. OK, it’s only really for Skype etc but did I not see people with laptops round the sites of Paris using them to take pictures? Yes. Did I also see loads of people using tablets? Yes. or iPhones and similar. Forget the quality and feel the convenience. There has been an explosion in photography. And it’s just like download music. Dog cheap and dog rough.
Now here is something I hate. I was in this gaff in Paris. It’s gorgeous. The stained glass is kick-ass.
Now this is one of my piccies…
That is from the big round window in Sainte-Chapelle. It is Christ presiding over the Book of Revelations. The full window has the Beasts and the Whore of Babylon and all the rest. I took it with my 300mm Tamron lens. Numpties were using flash on Samsung Galaxies. Seriously. Now you don’t have to be an f/stop philosopher to realise that photographing stained glass from the inside using a flash is an exercise in utter futility. But who cares? It costs nothing (near enough).
Now if we roll back time something weird happens. Now obviously an iPhone in many ways is a better camera than some wooden box that Lewis Carroll would use but I’ve seen his piccies and they are gorgeous. Technically brilliant. At some level the sheer cheapology of it has resulted in crapology. Back when Victoria was on the throne a photograph was expensive so folks took care. Now it’s cheap as chips and thoroughly automatic for the people so the quality has gone done hill like a cannon ball rolling off Mount Everast. In Sainte-Chapelle there were hordes of folk taking pictures with every form of gadget imaginable. And then there was me and a woman in her 20s with a Nikon DSLR who was holding it right - as I was with my Sony. The simple truth is our society has not coarsened morally as much as economically. I am as guilty as everyone else. I have taken puerile photos of puerile things. At high quality on my Sony with an 8 Gig card I can take 1000 photos. On my Pentax I can squeeze a roll to maybe 39. I can delete as I wish with the Sony too. I can feck around with the settings. It’s a nightmare when you review them. Umpteen piccies of the same thing from the same angle just with different ISO or exposure. And bear in mind the Sony has SteadyShot so for a static image I can get down to 1/20s sometimes and that is hand-held and still looks good.
I know I must sound like an old git but… I do have a point. The ubiquity of the image cheapens it because well, it is cheaper. On the Paris Metro (line 1) I sat opposite a Japanese bloke who was photographing everything. He grabbed a shot of the “stand clear of the doors” sign. Why? God knows. The image I reproduced above is of Jesus Christ on the last day in stained glass in a gorgeous late medieval chapel. One I think is worth more. Not financially but culturally. And no. I am not being a snob.
It’s like twitter. Back in the days of writing copperplate letters people had to think about what they wrote. Is it any surprise the number of celebs etc. who have posted on twitter something immediately regrettable? Or indeed even twitter addict Stephan Fry who felt the need to say he was stuck in a lift? If you don’t have to think then what you produce is either vile or banal or both. Mr Fry is clearly an intelligent chap so why such dross? He has the technodiction as have we all these days and he’s got it bad.
No, I don’t want to go back to cuneiform and graven images but we need to think before we shoot. Or tweet. Or whatever. Consider txt-speak. That wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t cheap as air. People would take time to craft a txt msg if it cost a quid a throw.
And yes, I appreciate as a blogger this is trivial junk. But it matters to me. To put it bluntly I wanted to share the above image with you the moment I took it. I hope you like it. It took about 15 mins to find it and I’m still not sure it is the definitive one! As I said, I’m just as guilty as everyone else of cheapening the image. And the letter and all the rest.
I can’t write English with a pen anymore. Seriously.
Another point. I learnt to take piccies on a seriously good optically (though heavy) Zenit. It belonged to my then girlf. It weighed a pig-iron ton. Of course I had to learn. I also had to do, as part of my physics degree, a photo course with Tony, the Nottingham University Physics photographer. Fascinating. It was a horrendous day in December and I slipped coming down the road on the ice and snow so I was soaking but he taught me the f/stops. Certain readers around here probs know how cold Nottingham is in winter. That is when I really got into piccies. Tony and Rachel. Tony was a nice guy and she was an uber-munt. But that is when I learnt. Greece was field practice. I have loved cameras for years and oddly enough I only really got into them once I got into SLR/DSLT territory. Before that I was a mere snap-shooter. Now I am not.
I have to say something mind. In 1996 I go up the Empire State Building early in the morning. NYC looks gorgeous and I have the Pentax K1000. And the film rips. That is an utter buggeration. I would have rather been anally raped by Lady Gaga with a 12 incher (actually if she uses enough lube that could be fun) than that happen. I got pictures of lower Manhatten and the Twin Towers at dawn but they no longer exist. Not like that is an option to go back anymore. Tnank you Al Queda! You can shoot a fourteen year old in the head in Crapistan (Now being treated in Brum) but can you build 110 storeys? Nicht. No you can’t. You can create chaos, slaughter and slavery. And no this is not Islam. Turkey isn’t like that. Sayeed (Mancunian Pakistani) at the corner shop ain’t either. His wife, a Mulimmah, wears a saree. I guess she is c.40. She looks very nice. It is flattering. It’s no burkha.
The depraved bastards. You know the 9/11 mob shaved their pubic hair to be righteous. I quite like (female - obviously) pubic hair but I also like the smooth look. The later is more fun for oral sex. But shaving is more morally righteous according to Big Mo. Certainly when moral righteousness involves making killing 3000 people more morally righteous than getting the Gillette out. They shaved to be righteous in front of Allah. Not shaving your body hair or killing 3000 people. It’s a toss-up innit?
I know where I stand here. I like piccies. I take hordes. I do not regard any image as wrong per-se. Being against graven images went out with the bronze age. I do think we ought to take care with piccies but is a nude image wrong or indeed any image. I posted an image of God. Call me. It is the fundamental (to me) idea of libertarianism. “Many things we should not do, but that shouldn’t make them illegal.”
Terrible photos should not exist but that should not make them illegal. Taking such shots is it’s own punishment after-all.