A beautiful, curated set of photos from Google Street View, as well as an assessment of its artistic sensibility. Google Street View deserves an exhibit at MOMA, the Google Street View camera more analysis from photography blogs and review sites.
[linking to an article that is several months old feels embarrassing for a blog, it's like receiving the "Microsoft will donate $1 for every copy of this e-mail that is passed on" from your parents, but I'll do it when it's good.]
On the topic of photography, it's long been said that an artist's tools affect the art created by it. What has been the impact of the last decade of photography technology on that field? Looking at some of the major technology changes.
- Digital photography, with its use of Photoshop and computers for post-processing - HDR? Photographic forensic analysis? Perhaps the greatest impact was on the idea of a photograph, now mutable, ephemeral, but in its ghostliness, infinitely more mobile. And it will only increase as cameras allow us to upload photos directly to Facebook or Flickr, or to send them directly from the camera into e-mail and out to the world.
- Digital SLRs - in a way, digital SLRs introduced a new generation to the advantages of the SLR as a camera form factor over the digital point-and-shoot. Back in the heyday of film, far fewer amateur photographers saw the need to upgrade to an SLR. Ironically, it was the ubiquity of the digital point-and-shoot that may have dragged digital SLR sales up. The poor quality of digital point-and-shoot photos (small sensors and slow lenses not allowing for shallow-depth-of-fields, long lag times between button presses and photographs, poor color rendition, among other problems) coupled with a huge upsurge in the desire to shoot and share meant a huge new consumer base interested in how to take better-looking photos. Whether right or wrong, for most people that meant upgrading to an SLR. As with all movements, it's both good and bad. Many more people took an interest in the possibilities opened up by an SLR. I've had more people ask me about what model of SLR to get than ever asked me about my film camera. But for most, the interest is shallow, with few actually caring to learn the fundamentals of photography that enable them to capture the full potential of the SLR. If you still shoot 100% of the time in Program mode on your SLR, you're like the hack golfer who spends $400 on the latest golf driver instead of taking golf lessons.
- Digital point-and-shoots - see above under digital SLRs. Overflashed portraits is one obvious outcome of the explosion in digital compacts. If I never get another link to a gallery of one hundred portraits taken by a photographer holding a camera out and pointing it back at themselves and the person they have their arm around, I'll be happy, though I have long thought that some photography museum should mount an exhibition of just such a set of photos, its aesthetic is so widespread now. We've always had portable cameras, disposable cameras, but pair them with websites that allow for instant uploading and sharing and we're now inundated by a photographic tsunami from amateurs who have yet to learn that curation is part of the professional photographer's craft.
- The shitty iPhone camera - you can lump all mobile phone cameras into this category, though I pick on the iPhone for its prominence as the predominant "smartphone" in mindshare. Make no mistake, I love my iPhone, it is still a miracle to me how much better it was than all phones to come before it, but the camera is undeniably lousy. Its primary virtue is its integration into a device I have with me all the time. I've learned to embrace its terrible quality, though, and in that way it's the digital successor to earlier generations of low-quality cameras with quirks, like the Lomo or Holga. In fact, more often than not, I use one of the iPhone apps (ToyCamera, Hipstamatic, e.g.) that simulates those old cameras to give my iPhone photos a random look that masks the cameras deficiencies by embracing them. That in itself can be a mannerism, but the photos are generally more interesting.
As for what's on the horizon, I predict that in time, with storage space cheap and video sensor resolution growing every day, we'll just all shoot video and extract the stills we want. It removes the burden to capture the decisive moment, as Cartier-Bresson termed it, and that's something most amateur photographers struggle with. We already have magazine covers like the Megan Fox Esquire cover which were shot this way.