My Corner of the ‘Net

Beyond the selfie

Posted on | July 23, 2014 | No Comments

For two years in highschool I studied photography. After I graduated, I spent another year in Undergrad working with 8×10 prints. I have a talent for photography, a good feel for composition and posses what one teacher proudly called “The Photographer’s Eye”.

All that training lets me see those “perfect shots”, moments where symmetry, color, light, and framing all come together in a perfect photo. I feel the itch to capture them constantly as I hike, go on vacation, or just walk down the street. I used to always feel a pang of desire for a quality camera in my hand to capture these moments. I even bought one of the 10 megapixel Optio’s to keep in my pocket, letting me capture these rare, perfect, visual alignments whenever I would come across them.

So I can honestly say I take good photos. And when I get the chance I post them to Facebook, Flickr, etc. (I’ve cut back on posting shots of my meals. Honest) With the explosion of SmartPhones and the 3G bandwidth that allows the posting content from anywhere, anytime, a large portion of Humanity has been uploading images like crazy.

But are the pics any good?

There’s an old adage that goes, “Anyone can write, but not everyone should.” That goes for most of the population when it comes to photography. To be fair, it’s a pretty flexible medium as far as quality goes. If the subject matter is spectacular enough (say a vibrant sunset on Cape Cod) you really don’t have to be very skilled. And if you’re an average phone-carrying citizen who snaps pics on a regular basis, it’s inevitable your quality will improve (to a point).

But what of that slender percentage of the population that does have photographic skills? Most probably haven’t had years of training, but there’s always a few that might be in possession of an  innate “Photographer’s Eye” out there, that talent just waiting to be tapped. Giving those people a medium for photographic self-expression in this case, phones with high-megapixel cameras, they could snap away at whatever caught their eye. It became the realization “an infinite number of monkeys typing away at an infinite number of typewriters”, only instead of a Shakespearian play they were turning out art.

In the 1970’s the independent baseball team Portland Mavericks held the first open tryouts for players since the 1930’s. It was by necessity because of their limited budget and lack of major league standing. But out of the pool of 300 random athletes, they put together a roster of 30 players that consistently beat practically every other A-class team in the Northwestern League.

It made no sense to the other coaches. Almost none of the players had a proper pedigree. No draft picks, some complete amateurs, all there for low pay, and yet they played for the love of the game and almost never lost.

Imagine the same thing, but with photography. You come from an enormous pool of individuals, you love taking pictures, and there’s no one to critique you. Your only tryout might be how many “Likes” you might get on a snapshot. There isn’t even the limitation of finite physical film. You have an omnipresent camera accessible in your pocket, and a world constantly happening around you. In this environment, everyone with the natural potential to be a great photographer can become one.

Will we see great art come from cellphone snapshots? Websites chronicling the best efforts show how far individuals have come in  quality over just the last few years. Going forwards, with improvements in technology that bring the integrated smartphone CCD closer to professional cameras in terms of quality, soon everyone will have the ability to turn out the same quality of work that was once only made by photographers with equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars.

And with that the world will become a much more beautiful place, if only because so much more of it will be available, via Instagram, in the palm of our hands.

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