The other week, I got angry at a piece of writing. It was a single sentence on a classic camera site I will not name. There, the author stated that “these people (experienced street photographers using old film cameras) take photos”. As if everyone else just took snaps.
At first, I thought, ‘Hang on, what have I been shooting (once I went digital) for the last few years?’
Firstly, this was an insult to all the people who switched from film to digital and still kept on taking amazing photos. Secondly, it almost suggested the past was always better. And it just wasn’t. Certainly not in photography and not, I believe, in most other things.
Now, I am not suggesting everything about photography today is better.
Film, either black and white or colour, remains the best medium we have produced for capturing the world. Blacks and whites look sharper, the tones crisper.
And I have yet to meet a magazine creative director who says digital colours look better than film. Because they don’t.
The simplicity of old-school picture composition, too, is brilliant, and it saddens me immensely that we have also, due to a ‘security’ and litigation-focussed society, almost killed street and candid photography.
But to suggest we cannot match, or maybe even surpass in many aspects, Cartier Bresson or Ansel Adams today is a bit rose tinted.
Take a look at the sites below for more evidence. You can compare the works of these two masters (and Google plenty more) with the best of today.
Present-day amateur digital photography:
- The 1x.com online photo community with present-day photography submitted from around the world
- Digital landscapes and portraits by this Flickr user.
Masters from the pre-digital days:
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Famous landscapes by Ansel Adams
Honestly, I believe the overall standard of images today is better, and the shots more powerful, than at any time in photography’s short history.
This is because we have better courses, more knowledge, and much more specialised, higher standard equipment.
And so it makes sense that we compose better, know how to shoot better, and process better.
There are obviously exceptions, too. Just look at some people’s Facebook sites.
And I admit, there is a lot still to learn. I still look at elements of the classics and wonder how they achieved such greatness.
But we live and learn. And we stand on the shoulders of giants.
What's your opinion? Add your comment below.
[Main article image by Toni Frissell, via Wikimedia Commons]