Loose Ends – No.1: "if I gave you a Billion dollars…" – By Thomas Eagle
Trying to get a grip on what photography is, and what it's becoming (and to a lesser extent, video), in the age of internet and social networks, cameraphones and foto-apps, feels a lot like trying to grab hold of a jellyfish – difficult in the first place, and probably not a very good idea anyway.
But the aim of 'Loose Ends' is to do something like that… to get a close-up on some the tentacles – both the venomous thick ones and the pretty little ones – that have spread out since Mo Ti and Aristotle's pinhole cameras begat Anthemius' camera obscura, which married Homberg's discovery of photochemical effects and begat Niépce's photoetching and the Daguerrotype, which somehow, somewhere along the endless line of descendants, begat the Charge-Coupled Device that's now omnipresent in almost all of our pockets (at least until the lightfield sensors get fitted into our retinas sometime in the not-to-distant-future).
And so here we are: a mobile p
hone is the most popular camera on Flickr
hone is the most popular camera on Flickr; almost 1/7 of the world's population have uploaded 50 Billion of their most treasured and personal photos to a company that started as a version of Hot or Not; a century's worth of video footage is uploaded every ten days to the servers of another advertising company; world media giants and tiny bloggers alike are caught red-handed infringing photographers' copyright on a daily basis, and a small program that makes ordinary smartphone-photos look like they were taken on expired film (ironically produced by companies recently driven out of business by digital) – is overnight worth more money than it takes to start a private Space Program from scratch, run it for ten years and dock successfully with the ISS. We live in interesting times.
And yet on the other hand, despite these apparent contradictions and counter-intuitive aspects of Modern Life, as photographers (I mean, “we're all photographers now”) we're more independent than ever – not tied to the darkroom, not lugging gear around unless we choose to, better able to capture decisive moments and treasured memories… and share them seconds later.
How do we make sense of it all?
I wonder, did people who grew up with plate cameras and phosphor flashes have the same concerns about what Box Brownies were doing to their beloved art? I suspect they did.