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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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New Yorker piece on cameras
Old 01-02-2014   #1
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New Yorker piece on cameras

Interesting story on one person's experience with cameras. I'm sure RFF'ers will have fun discussing this

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blog...e-cameras.html
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Old 01-02-2014   #2
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I'm afraid that these "words of wisdom" from this youthful geographical name-dropper won't change my enjoyment of both film and digital photography. And we don't all view our images "on tiny screens" either. Some of us take the business of photography a little further than that. TW
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Old 01-02-2014   #3
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Hey, I have an F-801 (8008)! Nice how he got that blown out branch in the middle of his picture like that. Also, Sontag didn't know anything (I mean anything) about photography so quoting her at the end is kind of funny.

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Old 01-02-2014   #4
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That article really does ignore numerous aspects of photography.

Froth!
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Old 01-02-2014   #5
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When I'm in a jeep, driving over a rocky pass above 12,000 feet or hiking over a nearby trail, I purposely don't want to be networked. There is no cell phone service on Ophir Pass in Colorado (not as of the summer of 2012) as well there shouldn't be.

The marmots and columbines, the swiftly moving clouds creating harsh shadows that morph with every second, are all things that should be left off the grid, in my opinion.

Some things on this earth are meant to be seen in person, up close like the sweet dew on a bright crimson Indian Paintbrush flower, or in a grand vista while a little lightheaded from the 3000 ft ascent. The photo is made that much more meaningful when I get to look at it years later and remember having to catch my breath before taking in the valley below.

At that altitude even in the summer you can sometimes see your breath because it's that cold up there. The network is never going to know that feeling of the cool, rarefied air in your lungs and hear the barking of a nearby marmot warning the others nearby of the invading human.

That place and places like it are the perfect areas for cameras, old and new but nothing can compare to that 35mm, 120 or 4x5 or even larger transparency for the person who took the photo. So crisp and clear you can almost jump right back into the scene.

In the busier part of life, I find there is a kind of magic to shooting film amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. I don't mind the wait. I don't need the network to reassure me of my images' worthiness, I'll see that on the light table and if it's rubbish, then it's rubbish. Better in the round file than a bunch of knee-jerk published bad photos.

Film or digital but a camera with a real lens with real aperture control, selective focus and its own share of aberrations makes it obvious that true cameras will never be replaced by cell phones. You can't put a 21mm Super Angulon or 50mm Summicron into an iphone. Nor any great optic for that matter.

I'm not worried, cameras are here to stay, I'm sure. They will certainly change but as long as people want to have control over their compositions, they have to use real optics with real optical controls and various focal lengths that you just can't get in a 6mm thick phone.

Phil Forrest
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Old 01-02-2014   #6
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All I could think was how much nicer that forest would have looked if shot on black and white with medium format.
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Old 01-02-2014   #7
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".....one persons experience... "

Exactly!

Oh yeah, what Phil said. +1
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Old 01-02-2014   #8
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very very nice, Phil. Glad that a bit of NY froth impelled such a nice draft of an essay on your part. Hope you feel impelled to flesh it out more.

Takes me back to marmots and pikas and alpine flowers of Independence Pass which I crossed more frequently than Ophir, sometimes with a Yashica 44, sometmes with an OM/50. Thanks for that.
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Old 01-02-2014   #9
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Thanks Zuiko and Robert.

Almost every summer my family takes a jeep or two up to the very high rockies in south-central Colorado. We like to stay away from more heavily traveled areas so we go to campgrounds more off the beaten path and explore old dead mining camps above timberline. Last time I was there I had only three days of acclimation to 7000ft elevation before we crested Ophir Pass the first time that trip. I decided I'd hike the last mile and felt like my lungs were going to explode. I got some good shots though; images that you have to stop the jeep to get (which you just can't do there without blocking the "road") and images which a lot of folks probably don't take the time to make.

I've always had a very "olfactory memory" as one may call it.
I remember when I was very little the smell of pine needles and that sweet, almost maple smell of ponderosa pine when visiting my great-uncle Pete and great-aunt Edna near Cripple Creek. They are just little slivers of memories but the snow back then was absolute magic for a four-year old. We have a few photos from that place that mom took with her Yashica 124. I always loved watching things through that groundglass.

I first got to shoot my own roll with that camera when I was eight years old. It was on a trip to Silverton on the Durango-Silverton railroad. I wanted to shoot nothing but the train but mom said I had to save some film for the town. When I grab a TLR and look into that groundglass, to this day just a millisecond of the smell of coal soot is remembered and I'm reunited with my very first desire to make photos.

The first camera I owned was a Kodak 110 Instamatic and I took it everywhere with the Boy Scouts. I think I still have that thing in a footlocker but every time I see one of those I'm reminded of the smell of sage and the silt while backpacking through Canyonlands Utah.

On another backpacking trip in northern New Mexico when I was 14 I took along that same camera. Those images remind me of the low impact camping we were doing and the taste of charcoal in my mouth after "brushing" my teeth with it. There are a ton of bears up there and bear attacks are a real risk so we couldn't take any nice smelling soap or toothpaste.

My Pentax ME Super was my first SLR (I had to buy one as mom got sick of me using her Spotmatic.) The ME carries memories of the smells of mountain biking, my first job after high school at Philmont Scout Ranch, the bike shop I worked at, the thick oily smell of the flight deck of the USS John C. Stennis, my first published photos of a machinist working on an auxiliary diesel engine.

On my deployment in 2000, I was on weather watch one night in the southern Indian Ocean, transiting from the Arabian Gulf to our next port call, Fremantle. I had been out in the near dark for several hours and could see everything illuminated by the stars and a sliver of the moon. 190 feet below, I heard a rushing sound and looked out starboard to see a whale breaching the surface and blowing air out its blowhole. Only the specular highlights of the water's reflection were actually visible but my eyes were used to the dark so I go to see this great show as if it were put on just for me. There are some things that aren't meant to be photographed because of their fleeting nature and incredible beauty. Technically, I don't think that photo could have been made even if I had a camera at the ready. It was just too dark.

Without Willy Wonka inventing smellivision, I can't share these memories with that kind of dimension. It's for me only as it's my experience but we all have our own individual experiences in life and photography and art. We make the photo not just because we like what we see but because we are in the moment and want to remember as well as share. The moment we click that shutter, we have five senses experiencing life and maybe a sixth sense or an instinct or whatnot that compels us to make the photo at that moment. The tactile feedback from our cameras is tied to our senses that we've captured that moment. I just don't get that from a virtual button on a touchscreen.

I can write ad-nauseum here on the "net" or from my phone at some remote location but no matter how linked in to the electronic world I may be, I can't put you in my position at that moment; so I think the connection is best left off and the stories shared at a later date when we have had time to appreciate our existence in that place wherever it is, selfishly consuming raw it like it is our little slice of perfection for just a few moments.

Phil Forrest
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Old 01-02-2014   #10
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Thanks for an interesting article. I need to be shaken and awaken from time to time for newer and evolving nature of photography. We all see on TV's constant video feeds and networking -cell, sat or starship.
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Old 01-02-2014   #11
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The essay is so light it is in it's right place, the cloud.
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Old 01-02-2014   #12
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I want the next Leica M7 "Intergalactic", which will develop and scan Tri X by itself, will crop and edit the pictures, and then will send the good ones to MOMA for exhibiting. As a documentary extra, it will send the jpegs of my cat into the inter-gallactic space for the aliens to analyze, and it will also use an inverse image stabilization sensor, to see if I am not developing Parkinson's disease, in which case, my doctor will be alerted automatically via Twitter. At this point, I will be able to say, that my current camera models are redundant.
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Old 01-02-2014   #13
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I really find it funny the urge these guys feel to justify themselves for using their iphones after they lost interrest in other forms of photography. There is very little said in this article really.
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Old 01-03-2014   #14
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He makes some good points about the convenience of handphone cameras.

However, he should note that not everyone needs instant digital gratification nor instant sharing of photos on social media.
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Old 01-03-2014   #15
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I love the New Yorker, so be kind here. They need filler material ever since they opened their website, you know.
I read the piece as a pleasantly written 'blog entry laced with pointless observations.

I liked Phil's commentary (above) more
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Old 01-03-2014   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveleo View Post
I love the New Yorker, so be kind here. They need filler material ever since they opened their website, you know.
I read the piece as a pleasantly written 'blog entry laced with pointless observations.

I liked Phil's commentary (above) more
I'm following you Dave. Agree 100%. It reads like holiday filler material. A Wikipedia recent photography history, made personal. Ross and Shawn would turn in their graves.
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Old 01-03-2014   #17
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I thought it was an interesting read. Most people want the convenience of a camera phone. I work near One World Center. There are definitely more camera phones being used then "real" cameras. I would say that in order of preference of popularity from what I have witnessed -

1. camera phones
2. point and shoots
3. dSLRs
4. a rare siting of a film camera.
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Old 01-03-2014   #18
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He only wanted to photograph to show his buddies... not because he loved photography. Social networking being confused with photography again.

Phones are great for non-photographers and even great for some photographers. However, most people that are into photography can see a clear difference between using an iPhone and using a camera.
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Old 01-03-2014   #19
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The tide will turn. I went to a university graduation ceremony recently. I was shocked to see how many families had only an iPhone or an iPad to photograph their brilliant offspring. I photographed my student with the Monochrom and with his family and friends it was their turn to be shocked at what is possible. On Christmas Day, however, I have to concede that my sister in law took better photos than mine (not technically) with just her point and shoot camera. She has some interest and can enjoy being better equipped than most in actually having a dedicated camera. But my wife's photos of the children with film in the early '90s with a second hand Olympus Mju (Stylus) were better again, with the highlights never blown on colour negative film. And my parents took better pictures than those, on the family Zeiss Ikon, where some reasonable photographic skill was required to even get a reasonable exposure at all. We'll see the rise of the dedicated family camera again soon I suspect.
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Old 01-03-2014   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
However, most people that are into photography can see a clear difference between using an iPhone and using a camera.
The same once has been said about the difference between using a Leica and using a real camera (i.e. large format). Every purpose has some break-even point between convenience and perfection...
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Old 01-03-2014   #21
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Yes, his last sentence was pretty precious lol. Smartphones are killing p&s but it seems the amateur dslr market must be good since everyone seems to be offering or rumoured to be offering, new cameras.

He should have taken the discussion to the obvious next step and one I find myself doing more often….I don't take photos of the interesting and beautiful. Nothing can replace being in 'that moment', not even a gorgeous photograph. imnsho

In some ways, the camera separates us from the experience, which we *should* be enjoying. ymmv
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Old 01-03-2014   #22
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The same once has been said about the difference between using a Leica and using a real camera (i.e. large format). Every purpose has some break-even point between convenience and perfection...
Right, but we are talking about a "swiss army" style computer vs. a dedicated computer made for photography. I think the distinction is in if it is made solely for photography or not. A Leica and a LF camera where both made with the same goal in mind. A phone is made with many goals in mind.
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Old 01-03-2014   #23
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What a load of narcissistic baloney - as if anyone would be interested in how fit the photographer was when making the photo or where he took a dump!

Background information can be interesting when you see photos from faraway places, but this sounds like information overflow to me.
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Old 01-03-2014   #24
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Old 01-03-2014   #25
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If it wasn't already clear, all the smartphone-onslaught is doing is making it easier to separate those who are truly passionate about photography and those who care more about convenience than conceiving an image from start to finish. Sometimes convenience makes fleeting images possible, sometimes a calculated approach with heavy kit yields the optimal result.

Horses for courses. The same thing rings for me as did before though -- the cameras I prefer using all seem to require film...
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Old 01-03-2014   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spicy View Post
If it wasn't already clear, all the smartphone-onslaught is doing is making it easier to separate those who are truly passionate about photography and those who care more about convenience than conceiving an image from start to finish. Sometimes convenience makes fleeting images possible, sometimes a calculated approach with heavy kit yields the optimal result.

Horses for courses. The same thing rings for me as did before though -- the cameras I prefer using all seem to require film...
That's how I view all digital photography not just with smartphones.
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Old 01-03-2014   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveleo View Post
I love the New Yorker, so be kind here. They need filler material ever since they opened their website, you know.
I read the piece as a pleasantly written 'blog entry laced with pointless observations.

I liked Phil's commentary (above) more
Merely the mention of "The New Yorker" evokes memories of sitting in my 7th grade English class during the Spring in Iowa... warm, flower-scented breezes wafting through the windows... the teacher, while teaching in the front of the class room, fading to a minor droning noise in the background while I devoured "The New Yorker" magazine. The Monopoly-style art deco drawings of men in tophats wearing tuxes and tails... women in flowing flapper's dresses... the reports of what was showing on Broadway... the news about town. It took me from a mundane classroom in the back waters of northwest Iowa to a place of excitement, elegance, and wealth. A place that I was certain always had something new, fresh and amazing to do and see.

Like Dave, I enjoy "The New Yorker" to this day. Like Phil, I enjoy photography, but believe that sometimes just living for the moment is truly fulfillment.

I don't know what all the vitriol is about here. "The New Yorker" is about entertainment, folks. I think that the article was entertaining and I enjoyed it. I'd suggest that you just enjoy it as entertainment too.
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Old 01-03-2014   #28
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Wow, That's the only camera's he used, the fun with photography and taking pictures
is using different equipment (if you Can). Now he's happy with a Iphone 5 whatever.

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Old 01-03-2014   #29
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Another smartphone vs cameras article
How it is relevant to photography?

Posting smartphone snapshots on Facepuke and to be annoying Twit?
What a smart ... to realize you don't need Hassy for it.

I went to Ontario Art Gallery few days ago to enjoy large b/w silver gelatine prints. This is where real photography is. Not on the network. Then I hold Ansel Adams book printed in Europe this feels and looks like photography.
But same picture on Flickr would be just small part of itself.

Am I old school? Well, even this networked guy writes something about taking your time and photography.
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Old 01-03-2014   #30
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"If you begin considering emerging self-metrics that measure, for example, your routes through cities, fitness level, social status, and state of mind (think Foursquare, Nike+, Facebook, and Twitter), you realize that there is a compelling universe of information waiting to be pinned to the back of each image."

Huh?

However, I've got no problem with "capturing the moment" using a smartphone, and even with sharing it with others. That's the value of such a device, so they do come in handy. I do agree with comments others have made, though, that I don't get this compulsion to share everything with your "network." Narcissism, indeed.
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Old 01-03-2014   #31
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He's correct to the extent we talk about this generation's use of photography as a means of communication.

Those of us for whom photography means black and white prints, mounted framed and exhibited, life goes on as usual.
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Well Written, but Missing the Point
Old 01-03-2014   #32
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Well Written, but Missing the Point

I found it to be a well written article. His style of writing is excellent; his use of imagery and references to the technological history of photography, mingled with his own history, make the story very engaging. He makes a reader enjoy photography. And his understanding of photographic equipment, with no inaccuracies that I noticed, indicate that he has been a serious photographer.

I think the only flaw in the article is that he has decided after one trip that the convenience of a smaller device for taking pictures (i.e., telephone camera over micro-four thirds camera), and its ability to send quickly his photos to be viewed by many people for his enjoyment of their admiration, means that the camera as he knows it is finished. If I were his editor, I might have told him to change his conclusions or definitive statements to speculations or questions: "Is this an indication of the end of cameras?", and maybe, "What role will traditional cameras will play in our future?"

These are good questions. I like to think that cameras will soon be left once again to the professionals and aficionados, now that the general public has an acceptable alternative for recording their life experiences. The camera is in some ways a technological advance over drawing and painting. We have not given up on those art forms. Great paintings and painters are still admired. You can still buy sketch pads and paint brushes. I'm not worried about the end of cameras and photography. I'm pleased that soon I won't see people who know nothing about photography carrying expensive Japanese DSLR cameras and telling me how they are photographers as they show me badly composed photos on their cameras. People who own pencils don't claim to be able to draw (or write), so I hope the same of photography as it progresses technologically.
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Old 01-03-2014   #33
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I don't understand why it has to be the death of one medium and the arrival of a new one all the time.
Film vs digital, mirrorless vs DSLR and now camera vs iPhone.

Like a constant churn, as if the arrival of a new gadget will sweep all before it and become the one thing we all need.

Sure iphones are taking the place of the instamatic, that doesn't mean the enthusiast will throw out their cameras.
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Old 01-03-2014   #34
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I guess I wouldn't criticize the writer for his "reasoning" for photography.

Some people love the machines, some people love the big prints, some people love showing their friends what they're doing, some people love having something to remember an experience by.

I think I personally go through ALL these phases at some point. Just because I don't tote my M9 to a school event, doesn't mean the event isn't important, or I don't take photography seriously.

By the very nature of this board, we tend to be gear-driven. That's okay. Who are we to pooh-pooh someone else's vision for photography, or their need for images?

Enough preaching from me. My own dirty little secret/admission is that my Ricoh GR is providing more photographic satisfaction to me than any camera I can remember. I like Daido Moriyama's philosophy (and also, lots of his pictures)...make the camera your slave.
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Old 01-03-2014   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
He only wanted to photograph to show his buddies... not because he loved photography. Social networking being confused with photography again.

Phones are great for non-photographers and even great for some photographers. However, most people that are into photography can see a clear difference between using an iPhone and using a camera.
I agree that social networking is confused with photography on some level. I enjoy both to some extent, and will often shoot the iPhone side-by-side with another camera. For example: my wife and I spent 2 weeks in Portugal nearly 18 months ago, and I shot snapshots with my phone which I then uploaded at the end of each day into a flickr set as a "travel journal" so that friends and family could see what we were up to. These shots were also of little things I didn't use a film camera for, for a variety of reasons. These are shots my wife and I still enjoy as well. I then shot my M6 for everything else. I then printed two books--one of iPhone snapshots, and one of more "serious photography". Both get pulled out and leafed through by us and our guests.

I guess my point is that social networking and photography aren't always the same, but they can be sometimes. The fellow who had his blog post featured on the New Yorker site has clearly lost interest in photography as a hobby years ago, and is much happier now (and would have been then) shooting and sharing with his phone.

It's his opinion, and that's all. If that works for him, why does everyone get upset when they read it? Are we so insecure about our own hobby? Like he feels the need to justify his use of the phone as a camera, do we feel the need to justify our NOT using a phone as a camera? Do we need to justify our use of cameras in general? Of just film cameras? Do we need to justify our need to be more/less networked?

Relax. Enjoy your hobby, and let him enjoy his. End of story the way I see it.
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Old 01-03-2014   #36
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Quote:
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I Who are we to pooh-pooh someone else's vision for photography, or their need for images?
Isn't that what the article is about 'the death of the camera'
Quote from the linked article:
It’s clear now that the Nikon D70 and its ilk were a stopgap between that old Leica M3 that I coveted over a decade ago and the smartphones we photograph with today.

It's not at all clear to me!
I'm not sure that I ***-*** (that's P00 P00 edited by the site) his vision, I just think it's unbearably stunted. The networked future when everyone shares your shots as you take them?

I'm not that sure that everyone wants to look at 'my vision' 24/7 some sort of 'live feed' of mediocrity–I think I'll give that a miss thank you very much!
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Old 01-03-2014   #37
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It's his opinion, and that's all. If that works for him, why does everyone get upset when they read it? Are we so insecure about our own hobby? Like he feels the need to justify his use of the phone as a camera, do we feel the need to justify our NOT using a phone as a camera? Do we need to justify our use of cameras in general? Of just film cameras? Do we need to justify our need to be more/less networked?
I guess it's the tone of these articles that proclaim to have the answer for everyone... a one size fits all type of approach. I understand photography has many applications and is not used by everyone the same way. That leads me to believe that the tools for photography will be just as diverse in the future. Now, what are the intent of his photos? To show his friends and family it seems. There is nothing at all wrong with this, but these articles fail to realize that people don't all view/use photography the same way. Now, it was in the New Yorker and not in a photography magazine, so we are most likely not the audience he had in mind. However, the name dropoping of gear leads me to believe otherwise.

I'm not upset. I just think that these articles, which come out weekly and are treated like a mind-blowing revelation by its writer, are getting long in the tooth. Now, if I wasn't at work, I wouldn't have even read this article or commented at all.

Maybe another reason we get worked up is that many of us here are sensitive to what we use to make images, not because of IQ necessarily, but because of ergonomics, etc. Ergonomically we have certain expectations that phones don't match (yet). So, where's that Leica M Phone?
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Old 01-03-2014   #38
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I read an article yesterday about how men have become boys. Of course the article was "tongue in cheek" but was it true? It compared how men looked and acted and dressed in the 1920's, using "The Great Gatsby" movie as a starting point. Today, the article went on men dress like boys all their lives (even when attending social events), jump around the tv watching football teams that are nowhere near their cities and they are not betting on the event, crave the latest gadgets, etc. I don't want to go on in this direction too far as I have not completely thought it out, though I think women have fared far better (see law and medical school enrollments). What struck me as "childish" was the immediate gratification of the article. "I can see my photographs immediately." "Dude, you took a picture of a tree. The tree is still there. Why do you feel the overwhelming need to see the tree on you camera screen?" "I can share it with my friends and family." "Dude, why do you think your friends and family need to see that picture of a tree?"
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Old 01-03-2014   #39
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meh. whatever works for you.
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Old 01-03-2014   #40
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. . . . So, where's that Leica M Phone?
August, 2014.
In a variety of skins.
Plays i-tunes as well.
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