Is Photography A Dying Art?

In a world full of photos what happens to the art of photography?

A young guy came into the gallery this week drawn in by the photographs that we were displaying. For me it was great to talk about photography in an old school way without the use of a phone or a tablet. Just him, me and some wonderful images. And it got me thinking; there is something very special about a faded photograph. The ability of a piece of paper to take you right back to a moment and fill you with the absolute experience of that specific instance in your life, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, that instant when the shutter clicked and you were captured forever. But it has changed, now photographs sit in storage somewhere in the ether of nowhere, everything everywhere is recorded, second by second by everyone. Our lives have become picture commentaries; our world is entirely visible. Concerts are viewed through phones, school plays are a sea of screens, cameras on dashes, cameras on heads, cameras on high streets and cameras on beds.

So what happens to the art if everyone is a photographer? It’s a question that I ask myself on a daily basis as I sit surrounded by photographs taken by people that I admire as true masters of the medium. Would Jorgen Angels intimate stage images of Marc Bolan give me the same thrill if he’d taken a thousand pictures on an iPhone and posted them on the web? Would I look at them and see myself as a teenager lying on my bed listening to “Metal Guru” aching knowing for the sound of needle on vinyl. I doubt it, because there is something entirely magical about that one black and white shot that makes my world stand still. And the world often needs to stand still and look at itself, who does not shudder still when remember Nick Uts image of the napalm girl. Who doesn’t wonder at the longevity and powerof Alberto Korda’s image of Che Guevara.

I think that as a human being we need the physicality of photographs to make them important to us, we need to see them, feel them, put them in our albums and on our walls, we need to amaze and enlighten us in galleries and museums, we need their presence to remind us and transport us and we need the skill of great photographers to capture iconic moments, our evolving history and those legendary faces. Who needs two thousand images when one has the power to say it all.

The context of a photograph is something that we must preserve, its accessibility has the potential to make us all photographers, but its importance lies not in how much we use it but the way in which we use it.