Wednesday, April 1, 2009

That's why I say hey man, nice shot...

While meandering about the interwebs, I stumbled upon a whole set of nice shots. That dude makes me want to get into landscape, which certainly hasn't been my primary interest in the photographic discipline to this point.

In related but slightly more local news, here's a sunrise I snapped on the way to work a few weeks back. As morning commutes go, well, I've had worse.

Digital and the internet have really changed photography, when you think about it. An aspiring photographer can:
  • See the results of a shot immediately after taking it (even faster than polaroid used to be)
  • Take thousands of shots with almost zero marginal cost
  • Modify ISO without changing film
  • Post-process with a laptop instead of a darkroom. Among the huge advantages here: space, undo, macros, marginal cost, etc.
  • Carry a collection of tens of thousands of photos around on a hard disk no larger than a moderately sized hardcover
  • Copy, clone, post, email, tag, share, and generally spread about photos to anyone and everyone, once again with near-zero marginal cost
Basically, after laying down a few bucks for a decent body and some glass, one can get all the practice he could ever want, nearly for free. Moreover, one can view the postings of others, also generally for free. No need to go to galleries, or buy books of prints.

Writers, musicians, graphic designers, programmers, visual artists, and scads of other "creatives" are seeing the same thing happen. As the marginal cost of production, publication and consumption head towards zero, the interaction that produces artistic movements ought to increase proportionately. You used to have to move to some physical place in order to take part in e.g., Ashcan, or Bauhaus. Now you just have to click a tag on Flickr, or DeviantArt.

In theory, this change in underlying economics should give rise to tons of new artists, movements and schools. It seems like it ought to be big enough to produce a fundamental revolution in the creative disciplines.

Of course, the flip side of all this is that the increase in signal is accompanied by an even bigger increase in noise. Not all content is good (heck, just look at his blog). Sorting through the crap in search of the decent is a really hard problem. Social filtering (Reddit) can help, automated filtering (Google) can help. At the end of the day though, there's going to be more potentially decent stuff to look at than time to look at it. Physical resources like film and glossy photo paper have been removed as a constraint, but the new constraints are time and attention, and we haven't caught up with that fact yet.

Once folks realize how valuable their time and attention are, how could we ever expect them to spend 40 hours at work, and another umpteen hours watching tv. Talk about under-valuation! It's like you give somebody a two thousand dollar laptop and then they use it as a doorstop since they haven't any idea what else it might be good for. Speaking of commutes, in a world where time and attention are incredibly valuable, who has time to drive an hour each way from the McMansion to the office?

That's some powerful stuff they've got on those interwebs now.