PHO702: Photography is Dead

Well, the fashion photographer Nick Knight thinks photography is dead. What interests me in why. In his own words:

I think photography is dead. I think photography stopped years ago and we shouldn’t try and hold back a new medium by defining it with old terms. … For 150 years they did the same thing. Then something else comes along at the end of the 1980s and you could do things you could never do before. …  I call it image-making … because that’s what I do. Because that can take in sound and movement and 3D, which I think are really part of this new art form. So it’s based on image. That gets away from the thing of truth.  … It’s a totally new medium and that’s what I think I do (Blanks 2016).

Agree with it or not, but I think the upshot is really exciting and something I need to be aware of in my own practice. Digital means the coming together of both still and moving images, sound, installations, sculpture, people and much besides. Fashion is not documentary and therefore the intent and need for truthfulness may be very different from other genres but what this means is that as a photographer I do not have to feel confined by a traditional Fine Arts world. I do not have to think that the only outcome of a project is a traditional gallery exhibition. In fact thinking so is likely to be a mistake that limits my audience, my creativity and my opportunities for work. Similar ideas have been expressed by Stuart Franklin:

Photography is a hugely valuable career, especially now. We are starting to live in a post-television era. In a way it’s like being back in the 1950s before TV became dominant in news or documentary. On the Internet and in print there is an important role for photography, but it must step up to challenge. There are sites of opportunity and there is always a market for quality. Today quality in photography is not so much about craft (as it once was), but about strong narrative, visual eloquence and affective communication. … Photographers must find spaces where important stories can be told and then use social media to build an audience. It’s a challenge, but like any challenge the more prepared one is the easier the task; and that involves learning (Aesthetica 2015).

I know very little about multimedia and the world beyond the still image, but I am glad to have come across these ideas. They emphasize the importance of looking at wider ways of reaching an audience. And – this is not to be underestimated – the value of experimenting with new ideas, making mistakes and simply having fun.

AESTHETICA MAGAZINE. 2015. ‘Interview with Magnum Photographers Mark Power and Stuart Franklin’. Aesthetica Magazine 20 Jul [online]. Available at: https://aestheticamagazine.com/interview-with/ [accessed 19 Apr 2020].

BLANKS, Tim. 2016. ‘Nick Knight, Techno-Shaman’. Business of Fashion 12 Jul [online]. Available at: https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/opinion/nick-knight-in-conversation-tim-blanks-techno-shaman [accessed 20 Apr 2020].