Even looking at Google Street View (GSV): Here we have something that is very different from what people in, let’s say, the 1970s had at their disposal. But all the work coming out of GSV essentially is just what people were doing before. Expect now it’s done on the computer, whether it’s creating your haha street photography, your bleak and utterly predictable view of the declining America, or whatever else. It’s all fine, but it doesn’t move photography forward one inch. It only looks new. But just because it looks different, because your haunted poor figures crossing some road in Detroit are pixelated doesn’t mean that there is a qualitative difference. It’s like the “new” soap that’s new because it says so on the box.
Photography has always enjoyed a fairly unique place in the creation of art. It uses mechanical, technological tools that can be quantified and measured.
There has always been a very close correlation between the tools and the art, and many photographers have chosen the relationship to the tools over the art that is delivered. From as far back as the early 30's you can find article after article on the sharpness of this lens or that lens, or how diluting Panadol to some crazy point would produce more highlights... and on and on.
No matter if the sharpness wasn't visible, or the slight increase of highlights wouldn't matter a bit on a shitty image.
In fact, there are a gazillion silver halide prints out there that suck the suck out of suck.
Now we have pretty much the same thing, but it all doesn't matter. iPhones and Androids, and P&S are all better than top end cameras from 8 years ago. While so many are still focused on the tools, the end product has become a mass produced pile of meaningless pixeldumps.
But the difference - and the challenge - is that no one cares.
Well, a few do... but most don't.
There are millions of photographers who aren't photographers but we have to call them photographers because we have no other 'pot' to put them in.
I am a photographer. My 15 yr old daughter makes a thousand photographs a month of her friends, and what she is eating, and where she is...
Is she a photographer?
Or a digital-capture-memory-saver?
Or a visual diarist?
Or a moment-freezer?
The reasons for her work are no where near mine. We use the same 'basic' tools to do what we do.
And we are now both photographers.
The challenge of saving photography - which may be exactly what we are talking about here - could be a total re-orientation of what it means to be a photographer.
And with all due respect, soaking a traditional image in lake water may not be the thing. Traditional media at the base, forced application of something 'else' at the end... not really new. Just forced.