Tools of Change and New Distribution

Up early again, my mind restless and spinning with ideas, thoughts and reflections on last week’s Photo Expo in New York City.  Ironically this year’s Expo didn’t really reveal anything “new” for me in the way of new toys and tools of the trade.  What was new was the obvious absence of Adobe on the exhibitor floor – a sign of the economic times?  Or is it  a sign of how the photographic business is shifting – from professional to prosumer?

While in NYC I took time to see Robert Frank’s exhibition “The Americans” at the MET.  His beautiful images have stayed in my head and no doubt will provoke me to jump-start one of the many projects that continue to bubble to the surface in my mind.  But there was one thing I read in context of the exhibition and that was a statement made about the camera being a “tool of change” during Frank’s time. I started thinking about that and realize that the camera, whether it be a still camera or a motion camera is still a “tool of change”.  James Natchwey’s images are powerful examples of that.

What is radically different today is our means of distribution – of getting our imagery seen.  No tool has the power to make a difference or a change if what it creates is never seen.  I started thinking about the demise of newspapers and print in general and I was dismayed about the future Temple of Horus, Edfu, Egyptand the still photos that may never be seen.

With the Internet and global distribution, the playing field has been leveled and democratized and anyone can share anything they create with the rest of the world – right?  Maybe not – because ultimately the web is controlled.  It’s controlled by what search engines find and how information is ranked. Listen to Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO talk about the Internet of the future.  Even Facebook now is deciding which friends will see our news feed.  That default can be changed of course – but you have to be aware of it to change it.  How many of us are aware? And I mean that in the broadest sense, meaning aware of what and how our information is delivered.

All the “free” content we get these days over the web excites us all.  It’s great – but even free comes at a price.  I can only hope that future generations will understand the underlying cost of  “free content” and be aware of who is controlling distribution in this new paradigm.

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