From the Dark Room to the Pixelated Light

Say “cheese”! *snap*

How is that for a start? Too predictable? Let’s make a game out of it and count how many people actually start their blog posts this way, or at least mention “cheese” at some point. The final number could be the amount of cheese samples we bring into the class on final day… maybe? I don’t know what I’m talking about, really. It seems that at times I merely fill space by talking “nonsense”. Oh, well.

Speaking of curdling, let’s get into the transformation of photography over time, which was part of our lesson this week. It was interesting to have a more traditional type of class with the lecture instead of an activity of some sort. There is nothing better than having a good ol’lecture class. Well, an interactive one would probably be better but… whatever. I really enjoyed the slide-show of pictures that we examined. The one that really stuck out to me was obviously Patricia Piccinini’s stuff. If you have not seen it, go look it up on Google. Expect to see a lot of “cute and cuddly” images. Funny enough, her style reminded me of the giant baby face located in Ottawa Museum of Fine arts, something I actually saw in person as part of a field trip. Apparently, it was created by Australian sculptor Ron Mueck in 2006 (I had to look that up online). Unless they moved it, that giant baby face is the first thing you see when you enter the expedition area of the museum, which is possibly the best greeting ever —and I wonder if Australians are jealous of the fact that it’s kept in Canada. I’d certainly recommend everyone to visit that museum. If you ever get a chance to visit Ottawa, that is.

Ok, so, what about the transformation of photography? Well, it’s no secret that the way people take pictures nowadays is significantly different from how it used to be. Thanks to the advancement of technology, every single person who owns a smartphone (or digital camera) has easy access to it. The practicality of the exercise now lies in digital medium. No longer are people required to process film in a dark room and wait forever to see their end-result. It’s a lot easier, and a lot faster… and unreliant of expertise for anyone to pickup and do it. It certainly sounds great for a lot of people who otherwise would not have been interested in photography. Yet, at the same time, it feels as if something is lost here. Anyone can become a “photographer”… What does it really take to be the best now? The one who has the most amount of features on their digital camera? I don’t know. Something seems… off. Still, I guess it’s a good thing for the people as whole. Though, if I may bring up a nitpick of mine… I’m still not used to the pixelation caused by digital cameras; analog all the way! I even prefer watching movies on VHS rather than DVD/Blu-ray or streaming. Does that make me a hipster? Maybe. Then again, aren’t we all hipsters deep in our hearts?… No, just me? Ok.

Everything is going over to the digital side of the neighborhood. Even sculpting is now transforming into a half-digital format. The 3D printing is a prime example of that. We briefly talked about the mass-produced aspect of photography and how the digitization of it enhances that even further. The idea was that the uniqueness of the artwork was lost because of it. Although the mass-production allows for easy access to an artwork (e.g., a postcard of Mona Lisa), the impact of seeing it in real life gets lessened somehow. I’d like to compare it to visiting a landmark after seeing pictures of it for a long time. It definitely spoils the experience because you may feel disappointed seeing the real thing up close by simply comparing it to its picture/postcard, and the amazement would be absent. Imagine seeing an artwork, or a landmark for that matter, for the first time without any preconceived notion or reference. You’d probably be in awe. Then again, maybe that’s just me. I’m often told that I’m easily amused, so… who am I to judge?

Another thing that we briefly touched on in the class was the position of movies in comparison to video games, and how video game industry surpassed the movie industry within the last decade or so. I strongly believe the interactivity of video games is the biggest determining factor when it comes to the choice of entertainment. There is also a possible social media influence in there, somewhere. What I mean is that people have been developing a self-centered position when it comes to online environments, specifically on social media, and so they may (unintentionally?) prefer things that they are in full control of. I don’t think I can actually back that assertion up but… let’s just say that I have a hunch.

Finally, I’ll briefly (which is the word of the day, kids!) talk about the studio visit by Alex Saum. In the live-stream, she talked about how YouTube has evolved over the years. The early stages of the platform was very confessional as opposed to what it is today, which is more influential. I believe the reason is that people did not know the potential of it back then, so they used it as it was marketed; You- the user, tube- record yourself and share it. Today, the platform has become… how do I put this in a respectful manner?… Well, frankly, it has become the Frankenstein’s monster. A lot of big (or even somewhat small) corporations use it for advertisement; some use it to boost their egos; others use it to spread (or enforce?) their political ideologies. And, I don’t care about any of those. Even the channels that usually remain within the entertainment spectrum are being dragged into one of these categories nowadays. Seriously, what is happening? Every single thing changes at some point, sure… but on the internet things change a lot faster for any of us to keep up with; confusion runs amok, and it seems to be contagious.

I should also mention the source of inspiration for one of Alex Saum’s works that she talked about. It was quite interesting. She shared her experience of waking up the morning of wildfire that recently occurred in California and thinking about the racial statements she had read the night before at that very moment, which apparently made her feel as if she was “entering the hell” with the imagery of ash falling down and the tangible hatred spreading everywhere. It was certainly intense hearing it all. It also made me realize that inspirations come from special moments in one’s life; you cannot recreate or duplicate it at will. Often times, I find myself in front of my computer, or merely by my desk with a pen and paper, thinking of something to inspire me to write. Of course, nothing really comes up, or at least nothing that makes me create something that truly feels special. Hence, it might be a good idea to be exposed to the world and experience it firsthand. Being stuck inside a room won’t bring that rare inspiration to one’s doorsteps. You have to be out there to see it, and live it, when it happens.

One last thing… using a popular hashtag on social media as a reference to a county that shares the name, and serves as a historical reference point for the literary work, is a stroke of genius. #yolo

One thought on “From the Dark Room to the Pixelated Light

  1. Great post here!

    I found interesting your statement that “it doesn’t appear to take much these days for anyone to be a photographer (or does it, really?)”. This is what is seems to be. But I think that even with us having the highest technology in cameras, there are certain skills and practices that distinguish a professional from an amateur. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean that an amateur can’t take great professionally-looking pictures. There is definitely more to it (the art / practice itself) than what’s apparent. For this reason alone, we don’t normally takes pictures ourselves, or let of friends take them, of really special event such as a wedding or baby pictures. For such occasions, we like to hire a professional photographer, right?
    So, in this aspect, I wouldn’t say that this art is completely dead with the evolution of technological devices (in this case, those that make photography easier and more accessible. Also known as: the smartphone, digital camera, smart watch, ect…). This art form is simple taken a turn, adapting to our generation and era. In a sense, you can think of it as the ‘reinventing of photography’.

    Thanks for sharing!


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