Photography has a long way to go..Compared to other digitized creative forms, like music, it is light years behind. And, for once, that could be a good thing. Like the youngest brother of a family, it can learned from it’s elders. For once, it has not yet been touch at full impact by the whole free file sharing tsunami that hit music a while back. Certainly the dams are leaking and breaking, but we are no where near what the music industry has experience.

Unlike the music industry, the photo industry is not that organized. It has a myriad of little associations biting at each other, with little or no resources, it is deeply fragmented in small to very small businesses and it has no support from giant manufacturers. But this is not the point of this entry.

The story of David Cope, very well explained in this article  (careful, it is long) is a great example of things to come. In a nutshell, for those that are too busy, it explains how this music composer, rather than writing music himself,teach his computer how to do it. At first he experimented in replicating styles of well known composers. At first, with little successes, as he had forgotten to add their flaws ( or styles). But when he go it right, it turned into one of these Shakespearean monkeys ( you know, the ones you put in a cage with a typewriter). This was not enough for him, so he proceeded in developing one that could compose complete originals pieces of music. That is where he reached a new milestone. The result was so good that many music critics loved it. That was before they knew it was a machine that had composed it, and not a human being. Than the rhetoric changed and David Cope is still being cursed at. While he is getting ready to make his work more available, the debates still rages on: Mainly, is art made by a machine still art ?

His point, well taken, is that it doesn’t matter if he uses a pen and paper or programming code to compose, it is still art. The Human being is still behind the creation, he is just using different tools. Photography is still far from being able to be produced by a machine. We have face recognition, sound detection, automated color correction,  highly sophisticated light readers, but none yet really can work together. In theory, they could. And in theory, one could program all the parameters of David Lachapelle’s past work and come out with an almost  perfect suggestion of what his next images will look like . We would still need a human being to set everything up and take the picture.

But let’s take this a step further. In theory, we could give every parameter of a photographer works and produce, in a computer, a CGI image of the next shoot. Completely automated. No need for camera, lights, studio, models, nothing. Everything could be created artificially either by taking existing images and reconfigure them, or simply create new ones. Or, instead of replicating someones style, create a whole new one. Create a picture, or a series of picture, at a touch of a button.

This is coming our way. Faster than we think. If you are worried of the myriads of microstock shooters, just think of what happens when anyone, even without a camera can create stunning images without ever leaving their desks, for a fraction of the cost. Just think about it. Everything you thought you knew bout photography is yet, again, about to change.

( As I was writing this, French newspaper Le Monde published this article about the same issue, but for text journalist.)

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One Thought on “Everything you knew

  1. davidsm on March 11, 2010 at 5:58 am said:

    Interesting comment. Possibly what Joan Fontcuberta addressed with his work titled ‘Landscapes without memory’
    In short, he used software to render images of landscapes. Some of them look incredibly realistic. I think the work didn’t go down well in many photography circles…
    Here is a nice interview Lens Culture mag did with him some time ago:

    Hope the link doesn’t bother you, I think it’s interesting to listen to him.

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