Friday, January 3, 2014

Cloudy Evening, By Smartphone

I caught this image from Trumbo Road looking southwest toward the city. I thought the cloud cover was impressive, even though I'm sick of cloudy days. I took a picture, with my Android phone, no tripod, no film and who knows what the image might look like were it blown up or printed. But that is not my way, and fine by me I thought...

Then I read this article in Britain's Guardian newspaper:

I love digital photography; it has liberated me. In the old days photography was terribly expensive, not simply the cost of developing but also the cost of film and the price of simply taking pictures. Imagine taking a picture and not knowing how it would come out! That was skill and luck and determination combined! If the shot mattered you had to take several pictures bracketing the exposures. If you were organized, and I wasn't, you noted the speeds and settings in a notebook so when the film came back you could compare the results with the intentions. Nowadays who thinks of that? Not only can you see the picture instantly, you can also open the appropriate page and the digital camera has recorded all the settings for you! Amazing.

I tried using a darkroom in school but I hated the chemicals and I disliked the whole business of fiddling with paper and bottles in the dark. So though I lacked the control I had over the black and white images I went to color which was more fun when it came out well, but the development process rapidly became so automated the pictures came back washed out, badly cropped and generally treated with indifference. Nowadays I can use digital effects when I take the picture or even afterwards if the recorded image isn't the way I want it to look. All in my phone! Then with a click I upload it to my Picasa account where it is stored and available for use in my computer when I want it. The technology is amazing.

Above we see the future of Key West, another huge hotel by Pritam Singh springing up behind Schooner Wharf Bar. Below we see the present, a city occupied by panhandlers bugging the tourists that feed us all. Pictures courtesy of my unobtrusive Smart Phone!
It costs me pennies to use my Google Blogger and Picasa accounts, but I fear the true price we pay is loss of privacy. These free, or nearly free accounts are sold by the providers to their advertisers. We are the product sold like chattel. And as we have seen thanks to Edward Snowden something digital is forever. Scrub your computer and the words and images can still be retrieved. As a result my blog rarely says anything about certain subjects and is for me, a worker bee dependent on my job, simply a trove of pictures about where I like to live. I have opinions and I express some of them as is my right, and yours to disagree. I don't have any deep dark secrets in my life, I could hardly have undergone the scrutiny I did to get a job at the police department had I been nurturing some fireball of horror in my past. But we are all flawed, layered people that the Web seems to try to unravel a little bit too much. To me that's what we have to guard against, not the death of decent photography.

Professional photographers are bound to lose out, as in every technological innovation or political twist. When President Reagan changed the rules for broadcasting news readers like me lost out big time as our bosses were no longer required to broadcast news in the public interest over the public airwaves. We've seen what that rule did to consolidate ownership of broadcast outlets. A colleague of mine described us as "the best buggy whip makers in town" and we changed professions. I miss my days as a radio reporter, but I wouldn't want to do it now with the emphasis on garbage news gossip and "tips" as the format. News has been replaced by tips on how to improve your waistline, love life or cooking skills. News? Really? I get my news online and I hope I have the judgement to sift the crap from the newsworthy and reliable. Certainly the mainstream is all crap, unhappily because real news makes you think, it requires mental involvement.

I don't know whether or not amateur photography rots peoples' brains, or deprives us of the ability to see. I don't think most people use their phone cameras much, not to record the day to day beauty of their lives, the dimple pictures of their worlds. If they find I wish they would post them. I think my blog is unique, and if not unique it's a format unusual enough that I can't find many other bloggers who simply photograph their worlds, and the periphery around those worlds. The streets, the parks, the crowds, the shops, the beauty of daily living, and I see lots of unrecorded beauty and humor and intrigue in my islands. Like the article says, everyone seeks a picture of an event or famous face but from what I can tell that which they see everyday they seem to ignore. I wish I could go online and see a resident's view of Buenos Aires or Port Stanley, Haïfa or Aquaba, here or there. A story to go with the pictures, a phrase to make me think would be nice, a meditation on the place, an argument or a conversation. So many blogs are family scrap books, some actual, some disguised as informative. Photos are few or small or repetitive. Content they tell us is the key, and photo content will keep photography alive and it needs to live, in all of us.

I'm not very good at seeing people properly, of capturing their essence. I wish I were better at it but it is my Achilles Heel, and I live and adapt. People with phone cameras do the same, and professional photographers will have to do the same. Buggy whip makers all.