The futility of conflict in photography – part 1

tripod battle

Lately, I’ve been reading about silly conflicts with photography groups here in the country as well as that of the global photographic community. Some have internal squabbles and some have perceived rivalries and hatred.
Convenience of Digital versus Exquisite emotive film. Toy photography vs Lomo, Serious camera vs Toy camera.

I’ll stick close to home. It’s strange to me that there is so much hatred lets say for Lomography, some claim it cheapens photography, it is illiterate and disrespectful, that it has stolen film photography and at times it’s not even photography at all. And honestly I don’t get the hate. While it may be true that there are a lot of people who get into it initially because it seems like a hip thing to do, this doesn’t necessarily mean that those who stay with it are fad riders forever. I guess some of the bitterness comes from the feeling that all of a sudden a “fad” usurps what they have an aspect of what they have been doing all along which is film photography.

The trouble with these conflicts is that it is all futile and they merely echo the same problems that the world of photography had during the infancy of the movement. Luis Daguerro versus Fox Talbot who both pioneered separate & distinct means of capturing a photograph. Initially Daguerro had the upper hand in terms of wide usage but later we ended up using something more similar to Talbot’s positive-negative which includes, developing, fixing and printing. Another ancient conflict in terms of convenience was Frederick Scott Archer’s Wet plate collodion versus the dry plate method. But in the end its still just a method

Even within photography, a lot of people still struggle with calling it a form of art, to some, and I subscribe to this notion, it is a mechanical function injected with human skill and intention that produces “art like” . For the “photography is art” camp they claim that it has evolved beyond it’s original purpose of documentation and can be now harnessed the way a painter uses his brush and should therefore be regarded with the same respect and appreciation as a work of art done by a master painter. One such advocate was Peter Henry Emerson, the whole span of his career was spent fighting for the idea that photography was such and tried to validate this through his great work and effort. Producing countless exhibits, publications and groups meant to counter the displacement and dismissal of photography. In the end however he lost the argument after publishing a retraction of previous claims, having recently watched a skilled painter in action. He was rarely heard from since but maintained shooting nonetheless.

And the further you get into it the more you realize aren’t most things just fad’s? They are temporal and more often than not inconsequential. An example that comes to mind is pictorialism which sought to emulate paintings by using heavy dark room manipulation, soft focus lenses, weird filters went away after a while and before it came Landscape Images was the vogue thing when photography was first invented which was more of a technical limitation at the time, then portrait photography when more portable equipment and processes came out. And this just went on and on till new technologies cropped up and mindsets and preferences changed with them. Whether you still use film or digital, black and white or colored, SLR, Point and shoot or even a range finder, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. They are all just tools and mechanistic reproductions of the world. What ever your instrument is be happy with it don’t be anti-anything because at the end of the day we all just want shoot.

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~ by halfawakehaiku on September 28, 2009.

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