The man who brought photography to the hands of the masses might not have been too pleased to learn that now - 81 years after his death - everyday people are taking some pretty good pictures with their telephones.
George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Co., is considered the father of modern photography.
At the primitive advent of photography, exposures were long because of low sensitivity to light inherent to glass plate negatives. Some photo studios were outfitted with skylights to allow natural brilliance to illuminate the subject.
Capturing action was out of the question. Cameras were big and bulky, restricting their use. It took bravery and a sense of history for mid-19th century studio photographers to trek onto battlefields and become pioneering photojournalists. Only when Eastman improved roll film did equipment become more user-friendly. Film “speed” remained tortoise-slow and confined to bright, sunny days. Smaller, easier-to-manipulate cameras came with improved optics, and by the time World War II broke out, the craft of taking photos became as common as corn flakes.
Baby boomers were blessed with the option of color film and with it, color prints. Color transparencies - better known as color slides – were more for entertainment value. Prints made from slides were never sharp, and after all, didn’t everyone want to frame, mail or pass around paper prints? Extra prints were an early version of “sharing” made so easy by Facebook.
What had become a costly preservation of vanity had evolved into something everyone carried in their wallet or affixed to their refrigerators.
Photographers began a veritable arms race, buying lenses that could reach farther into the distance and capture images in poorer light conditions, or both. While all that was taking place at the front of 35mm cameras, something else was happening in the back. A memory card had crept in under the cover of darkness and replaced the spool of film.
Acceptance was not instantaneous nor should it have been. Film was still sharper than early digital images. The mechanism for firing off multiple digital bursts in rapid succession was still on the drawing board, making the capturing of sports and other fast action as logy as the first daguerreotypes. Those of us who remained loyal to film were in fact just kicking the can down the road. Eastman’s company, Kodak, failed to jump on the bandwagon and eventually slid into bankruptcy.
Just as we were settling into the age of digital photography and dealing with variable image resolution and white balance, another interloper came over the horizon: the smartphone. The difference between a true camera and a smartphone is so distinct that a new world has been added into our technological vocabulary.
“Although the iPhone’s camera cannot compete with professional digital cameras, many amateur and professional photographers . . . are using it as their main photography tool, which is known as iphonography,” according to Photographytuts.com, a website that provides photographic tutorials.
The number of effects available as iPhone apps tells me two things. First, images captured via a smartphone are likely to become more distorted and manipulated, making them more of an art form than “pure” photography.
Second, users with no regard for preserving a moment in history will flood social media with wild, unnatural colors and blurry compositions. This, folks, is not what Eastman had in mind. It’s a digital art form.
I suppose Rembrandt would have looked with disdain on the works of Picasso. The former’s accurate attention to detail is far from the latter’s abstract illustrations. But both were artists, painters to be specific.
One of the more interesting apps is called Camera Awesome. It allows users to modify the real world capture by applying special effects, setting focus on a specific object in the scene, modifying colors, cropping the image and selecting slow or fast motion. It might be awesome but it’s not true photography.
The photos I post to Instagram are nearly 100 percent accurate as to how the subject matter appeared. Send me an email, and I will consider sharing my
Instagram account with you.