Siddharth Mathew siddharth.mc@thehindu.co.in

A Technophobic technologist who views technology as two sides of the same coin -good and bad. Multimedia content producer, Scissorhands on the digital desk, shutter-bum, gadget geek, and former reporter.

My Take on life -If I report, I contemplate - if I visualise, I pixelate. 

Siddharth Mathew

Photography: Is it for the 'pros' or for everyone?

Siddharth Mathew Cherian | Updated on August 24, 2020 Published on August 24, 2020

On a day that celebrates the invention of the photographic process, an amateur reflects on the changing times

Photography -The hobby of the rich, the art of pros and purists  -A year back, I came across this article talking about a piece of photographic technology and how it stacked against the technology of today.

The article starts with 'Why does a photograph clicked with a camera and a massive lens look deeper than the one clicked with a small cellphone? The difference is in the innards of a camera. To put it simply, all photography is about light. Rather, about the quantum of light entering the camera. See the cellphone and its small lens? See the bigger camera and the bazooka lens? The difference in the quality of the photograph becomes easy to understand.'

The writer goes onto say "A few tech blokes thought they could solve this problem by matchmaking a bigger lens with a smaller and smarter camera. They just removed the big mirror from the clunky camera, shrunk it, and called it a mirrorless camera. A definition of a camera of what it isn’t. So is the mirrorless camera the perfect marriage of a big lens with a smaller device to process the light, or is the term mirrorless camera an oxymoron?"

He ends the article saying "As someone who has to lug a camera around for reporting assignments, climb hills and trek, the choice is still difficult: Do I carry around a 3-kilo dumbbell that gives me full control or do I carry a small weapon that might not quite hit the mark? It’s a tough choice for a pro."

Well, this left me laughing is the indication from the writer's words that the best camera is the heaviest (aka a dumbbell) and the costlier camera makes one a pro. A lot of people often think of technology in terms of bigger meaning better.

The age-old debate

The age-old debate by photography purists is that Megapixels make it all and heavy-duty cameras make a photographer is a misnomer pushed around quite often in this day and age. Some are yet to come to terms with changing technology and others who have come to terms with technology grudgingly accept that now everyone can take a photo, unlike previously where it was only used by pros or just to capture family moments 36 frames every summer holidays.

Purists still call film photography art and called digital a crude clone of photography, while both film and digital photographers respect each other's point of view -it is often peddled by some as the opium of a few to the opium of the masses. What I can say is that, photography has become a democratic medium over the last decade or so -Call it the bane of the cellphone camera or making photographic technology accessible to the masses, Instagram and Facebook have only been an accelerator which has given a canvas that the previous generations weren't able to access. Quality vs Quantity may be on a tight-rope walk for anyone on this age-old debate.

Technology is moving at such pace that today's technology is tomorrow's trash and no technology is future proof -today's tech becomes redundant faster than we can spend on it. There is no answer to whether technology stays relevant as long as the person taking a photo thinks he is relevant. often I come across people who have GAS(Gear Acquisition Syndrome)  problem -Occasionally indulging my self once every year, People belting out f-stops like f**lstops (Full stops/Fool stops) as a next-gen purist -both are hypocritic pleasures that I rarely indulge myself with. At the end of the day, it tends to be an experience that everyone says -to each one, their own.

Some say photography is only for the rich. The digital photography market is a billion-dollar industry like any other sector that feeds on the consumerist tendencies of consumers like a leech to survive -where the more number of megapixels increase one's so-called clout and year after year cameras and gear becoming costlier yet smaller.

At least 2/3rd of the people have a personal and distinct connection to photography -Amateur or pro in ways that not many understand, yet some discount the viewpoint of others and rue the democratization of technology among the masses -From the bazookas of the previous generation to the pocket masters of this generation -The mobile phone.

The mobile phone has put technology and photography in the hands of many. From capturing moments with your family or some goofy selfie -The mobile happens to be the best partner that happens to be with you most of the time. As it is scary to be connected 24*7 and being around electronics 24*7. Often the need for most people is to disconnect from one's gadgets and rather enjoy life by stepping out(A strict no-no in the times of the Coronavirus) rather than living life through gadgets. This is often the human perspective of life that we tend to miss to enjoy.

With technology and digital storage, the photographic process has seen one transition -The printing of photos has come down. Nowadays most of us tend to flip through a million photos on a digital screen. While still photographs appear in newspapers and online, gone are the days one could reminisce old times through those family photo albums. 

Next gen photography

With AI and computational photography becoming the next level of photography and deep fakes the double-edged sword in the 'fake' news era. There is often a need to realize the purpose of the technology and use one's own moral compass so as to prevent the misuse of evolving technology, Often people chide the lack of the human perspective as the reasons for all these technologies existing, but more often it is a lack of human insight that drives this perspective or an aversion towards technology or the changing times.

But at the end of it all, what determines a pro and an amateur, is being pro meaning lugging the heaviest gear or spending billions on an inanimate object in the search of capturing an elusive moment. I may be a hypocrite and not that 'pro' enough to comment another take on photography, but I do feel it right to point out that photography -while being something rather of a personal experience, shouldn't become a way of pushing age-old notions and not being ready to accept change, but at the same time willing to acknowledge the fact that the different mediums cater to a different audience.

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Published on August 24, 2020
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