Are Cameras Dead?Thursday, January 02, 2014
My very good friend and mentor, Raúl Guerrero Montemayor (he died early this year in Mexico City) used to define himself as, “Soy híbrido.” He meant that because he had been educated in Switzerland and spoke more than 8 languages he did not feel that he was from any particular country. His choice of híbrido was specialized but by his early 70s the blonde, blue-eyed man considered himself a Filipino.
The purpose of the above paragraph is to explain how languages treat words differently. If you say hybrid in English you might not think about a specialized-bred-in-a-nursery rose but perhaps a Toyota Prius.
It may have been some 12 years ago when I spotted in London Drugs a toaster that had a built-in radio. Was it a radio with a toaster or the other way around?
Today between the clunky, heavy and expensive Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras and the point and shoots there is an in-between camera, the so-called mirrorless cameras. My Fuji X-E1 is one of these “hybrids” perhaps?
Recently I was sent an interesting article from the New Yorker called Goodbye Cameras by Craig Mod. It is a startling essay in which Mod predicts the demise of all cameras and that these will be replaced by an awesome iPhone 6s in a very near future. He ends his essay with this:
Tracing the evolution from the Nikon 8008 to the Nikon D70 to the GX1, we see cameras transitioning into what they were bound to become: networked lenses. Susan Sontag once said, “While there appears to be nothing that photography can’t devour, whatever can’t be photographed becomes less important.” Today, it turns out; it’s whatever can’t be networked that becomes less important.
In the body of the essay he argues that the iPhone has replaced cameras. I believe that even though the author defines a camera as a box with a lens in the front and a sensor or film in the back, that a smart phone is no different. Some smart phones might have a lens on both sides but even though the box is flattened a smart phone is a camera with a phone or is that the other way around?
Lost in the argument in which images are mostly seen on iPads, tablets or at best on monitors, is the idea that an image (no longer called photographs these days, just pics), is an image that is also a good portrait. Forests, selfies, cats, sunsets, party groups are there in myriads but there are few photographs with a sense of style. The playing field has been evened out by the sheer quantity of people taking pictures with their cameras.
There is a lot of writing and talk about the mechanics of these cameras and very little about what can be learned from observing one of these many images, if every once in a while, one stands out from that crowd. What it was taken with is irrelevant.