At the end of 2010 a few trends have become much clearer:
1. Books that use photographs are in a moment of renaissance, the awaited pushback against the digital-ephemeral and a new embrace of paper (reminiscent of painting’s expansion as photography took center stage). Made with digital tools, these books, usually from small publishers, take risks that transcend the tired monographs with photographs centered and celebrated on white pages.
2. The digital - iPad, Web, cellphone, etc. - are still being utilized as exceedingly rudimentary display devices, showing a haphazard mix of image/text/sound that is often less than the sum of its parts. There is little sense of authenticity, of risk-taking, of graphics, of layout, of typography, of playing with scale and texture. Instead, the slide-show with sound has become the overused default - and it is hardly an advance over what was done decades before.
The word “magazine” comes from the Arabic/Hebrew word “mahsan,” meaning warehouse, and it is as if we have returned to a pre-magazine era in which we are once again presenting a warehouse of media with little filtering or thought given to effective presentation.
3. Photography of news continues to evolve into a photography better done by amateurs than professionals, given that there are many more amateurs with cameras walking around at all times. The stylized imagery by professionals repeating the stereotypical news cliches is not helpful as a way of promoting understanding. The province of the professional in a journalistic context is very much the long-term essay, and many are working both in the old-fashioned and very necessary role of witness and others are trying to re-invent it to add complexity, nuance, and engage the reader in different ways. What is needed more than ever are thoughtful editors/curators who can help make sense of the visual overload.
4. We are entering a post-photographic age in the transformative sense - one in which photography has to significantly evolve in order to be useful. We are beginning to witness this transformation in a broader way, as many worldwide both interrogate and discard photography’s set of older strategies while utilizing other media synergies to amplify the photograph’s communicative potentials.
No photograph is automatically credible anymore beyond a local context, and this is both a challenge and wake-up call. Many photographers (broadly defined) now seem to be stimulated by the new potentials of the photograph and the discussion is finally beginning to evolve beyond the repetitive and plaintive “end of photojournalism” to a sense of multiple new beginnings in an increasingly open-source world. The next step will have to be a more vigorous search for meaning, as well as for collaboration.
Have a happy and peaceful new year!