The Democratisation of Image Making

Regent street, Leeds (ScratchCam) © Gillian Holding 2011

Regent street, Leeds (ScratchCam) © Gillian Holding 2011

I downloaded yet another new iPhone photography app the other day. ScratchCam, in case it is of interest. I spent a lot of time over the last few days playing with it, and it’s been great fun. A couple of the images on the blogs of the last day or so have been ScratchCam generated, and I’ve uploaded a few more here.

But as we were driving along Regent St in Leeds yesterday, and I was excitedly shoving each new result under the eyes of my chauffeur, he said “Don’t you find it a bit upsetting that it’s so easy to get all these effects now, whereas before it took you ages on Photoshop? Now anyone can do it!”

Profile of J (Hipstamatic) © Gillian Holding 2010

Profile of J (Hipstamatic) © Gillian Holding 2010

Well, to a certain extent that’s true (although he failed the idiot-proof test I set him a month or so ago to fail to take a great Hipstamatic photo), but I don’t mind that in the slightest. It’s nice to be able to create interesting images without a lot of fuss, but getting good, even great results time after time is still not the same as getting a winner. That still takes a modicum of skill and honed visual perception; there is always the challenge of originality, composition, and filter selection, and avoiding the trap of using a filter for the sake of a filter. Plus, photography for me tends to be a means to an end (except for the images I produce to illustrate my blogs) and a working sketch book alternative, so I’m just grateful for the short cuts these apps provide.

Zazie (ScratchCam) © Gillian Holding 2011

Zazie (ScratchCam) © Gillian Holding 2011

I don’t know what proportion of the general non-artist section of the population use the apps, but from some of the Facebook snaps I’ve seen, it’s clear people are generally becoming more savvy about effects and the possibilities of creating great imagery from fairly nondescript photos. I think this is wonderful. I’m all for democratising the production of fine imagery, because it all helps to expand participation in, and thus widen understanding of, visual culture.

One paradox is the popularity of  old instamatic, Polaroid and 70s-style filters. Photography seemed to sink to its lowest depths at the time these styles prevailed, but there’s nothing like nostalgia for seeing faded colour in a new light.

So I’m very happy about all new apps. Technology has to be embraced; it always provides new challenges of one sort or another, and in this case I’ve no doubt that it will  just spur on all artists/photographers to ever greater achievement.

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3 responses to The Democratisation of Image Making

  1. […] The Democratisation of Image Making (via Life and Art) Posted on 27 April, 2011 by Jarle Petterson I downloaded yet another new iPhone photography app the other day. ScratchCam, in case it is of interest. I spent a lot of time over the last few days playing with it, and it’s been great fun. A couple of the images on the blogs of the last day or so have been ScratchCam generated, and I’ve uploaded a few more … Read More […]

  2. Just reading The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin and wondering what Benjamin would have to say about the global dissemination of images on the Internet and the popular use of Photoshop and the Hipstamatic app…

    An interesting blog. Thanks. 🙂

    • gillianholding – Author

      Thanks; glad you found it of interest. I would love to know generally what Brnjamin would make about pretty much everything of 21century life; rampant consumerism etc!

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