I think before we can ask the question of where photography is going in the future, we first have to ask where has it already gone in the last 15 years?
Ever since the digital photography revolution started at the turn of the century, the definition of what we actually refer to as photography has been changing a lot. In fact, what we used to simply refer to as digital art or graphics can now be defined as photography, that is if the final image simply started with a photograph.
Film has also nearly vanished from everyday photographic use in a period of decline that started less than 10 years ago and more than 50% of the general population is now capturing many of their photographs these days with nothing more than a simple Smartphone camera.
So where does this put things now? Pictures at present have less emphasis placed on how they originated and more emphasis on how they appear after being processed. Plus, the total amount of photos now being shot everyday is historically more than ever before.
In the year 2012, ten percent of all of the photographs taken in the entire history of the camera were captured within that one year alone – an astounding figure. Facebook has had over 250 billion photos uploaded since its inception 10 years ago with an average of about 350 million new photos being uploaded to Facebook each and every day. This is in part related to the ease of snapping pictures using cell phone camera technology, which some people feel is the death of photography, but the fact is the world is engaged with communicating through expressive impromptu pictures even if they sometimes lack pixel quality, technical perfection or a definitive point of interest. In these cases, sometimes the immediacy of seeing a visual image of something in real time is more important to people than what the picture actually offers aesthetically.
Nonetheless, a great photograph will rise above all other photos no matter how many snaps there are at hand or what equipment the image was captured with.
So where is all this going to take us in the future? And where will it eventually stop?
It looks like photography is never going to stop evolving and the border has certainly been expanded to where it seems there are no limits anymore as to what people will accept as a perceived 2 dimensional image of reality. Aside from this, there are some truly identifiable trends which give us an indication of where things are headed.
What is evident is that the everyday photographer these days wants a small electronic device he can quickly pull out of his pocket, is ready to start shooting at the click of a button, and is able to snap something on the go. Today’s general use photographer then wants a medium in cyberspace which will assist him in sharing his digitally captured moment with the world instantly by helping him to upload that image simultaneously to a multiple of interconnected digital platforms where he has his own individual cyber presence.
To this end, the future will entail digital imaging devices which are more like Smartphones than cameras. Let’s call them smart-cameras for now.
So far, Samsung has come the closest in this new genre with their recently released Android based line of NX pocket-sized point-and-shoot and larger sized mirrorless digital cameras with interchangeable lenses. These new smartcameras offer a full menu of apps that also allow the user to manipulate the photo in the camera and then link the camera to the internet to upload the pictures instantly via built in WiFi and/or wireless 3G data technology to a variety of the user’s favorite social media sites.
Purist photographers will still try and fight against the way in which photography is now evolving. And while the new digital-age photographer used to have to argue that their digitally manipulated artwork really is photography, now the debate seems to have already nearly ended. The analog dark room purists have been left behind and the masses have begun to embrace the new form of digital art maker, come photographer.
If you look at one of the most artistic photo sharing sites at the moment, 500px.com, it shows a boundless arena where the world is heavily embracing this new digital art form and is now willing to accept all forms of manipulated digital photos as photography.
It used to be that people would be concerned with how much of the image was real and how much was digital manipulation, with a tolerance level previously hovering around the 10-20% threshold on manipulation. But nowadays this question is not posed so often anymore. And it appears there is already less concern about how much processing is too much, with the question having become more focused on if you like what the artist has done with his original photo or not.
People simply want beautiful pictures to look at, ones that appeal to the senses, and images that evoke emotions rather than to sit around and debate about whether the final product is still considered a true photograph or not.
I think it is hard to entirely predict which of the current trends in play in photography will continue to be embraced in another 10 years from now, that with photographic technology being developed and changing more quickly than ever before. But I think the simple answer is that in the future world of photography people will still want to see beautiful images, perhaps less questions will be asked about how they were achieved, and the shooters who are able to deliver eye catching pictures again and again will survive all other photographic revolutions still to come.