A 6 Year Old Question

One of the Christmas presents I gave to myself this year was to re-up my subscription to LensWork as well as purchase a few back issues that I was missing. In today’s digital world, there is still some internal longing I have to hold a printed copy of a magazine or book…I’m sure part of it has to do with not wanting to spend more time behind a electronic device (I already spend way too many hours behind one for my day job and then for my photography once the working day has ended…but I wonder if there is something more?).

One of the back issues I purchased (Issue 41 from June-July 2002) had an interesting article in it by Brooks Jensen, When the Rules Change, where he talks about the changes digital photography has on what we instill the most value in.  The concept of an original print being worth more than duplications.  But what happens when the 1,000th print is identical to the 1st print (thanks to digital technology)?  What item contains the most value from a photographic art perspective when the output is perfect duplication and the “original” is just bits on a disk?

And here we are six years later and I was wondering: have we ever answered this question?

I’m not aware that we have.

Photographic technology has continued it perpetual march forward.  More and more people are finding an interest in photography (see my post Photography Times…They are a Changing from last year) and the popularity of photography has swooned.  But at the same time, the value of photography has swung in the other direction.  Rather than investing time to determine what piece of the photographic puzzle has the most value, the market has determined that all pieces have less (or no) value.  First it was new photographers giving away their work for free, then it was the market cutting how much it would pay for photography, and now we are seeing the market not respecting even the micro-stock fees or  the market not wanting to pay anything for photography.

Granted, these examples are from the pure commercial side of photography and what Jensen was talking about was the art side.  But, when it comes to photographic art, which is commercial as well, the same type of situations are occurring.  Why buy printed art when your [pick any one of a number of devices now connected to your TV and the Internet] can pull photos off of Flickr and display them on your HD TV?  What is the value of the art you display on that HD TV?  Does it contain less value or more than a printed version of the same image?

Curious mind trips to take while your relaxing over the holidays…

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