A sign of the times
Today we got a jarring reminder of how bad things are in our industry, even without a pandemic.
The leading trade show in the imaging industry, Photokina Cologne, which has been around as a biannual since 1950 and typically draws close to 200,000 attendees, is no more.
As everyone knows, it is impossible at this moment to run a large trade show. The sponsor, who also runs several others, has been cancelling everything through February, and has announced that its other biggest show, CCXP, the world leader in the comic field, which drew 270,000 people in 2019 but was cancelled this summer, is now cancelled for 2021 as well. Technically Photokina is cancelled only “until further notice” but the press release makes clear that there is not going to be any such notice and that the reasoning has nothing to do with Covid. It cites “further massive decline in markets for imaging products…Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, the imaging market was already subject to strong upheaval, with annual declines in the double digits. The momentum in this direction intensified massively in 2020, most recently reporting a decline in the 50-percent range.”
The COO of the sponsor nailed it, IMHO: “While there are more photographs taken today than ever before, the integration of smartphone photography and videography, together with image-based communication, e.g. via social media, was not able to cushion the elimination of large segments of the classic market. As a result, the overall situation is not compatible with the quality standards of Photokina…”
A lot of us have suspected that this is what’s happening to our market worldwide, but I haven’t seen a lot of specifics about it.
What has really shaken my tree is the new PS trick where one can modify a single portrait shot in ways I still get amazed by. It used to be that a photographer had to have a mastery of the medium to produce a professional quality image specially when the medium was a piece of transparency film. Now anyone, even my young grandchildren can produce images which are super nice with just a touch of a finger. Not that this is anything "bad" but it sure has made taking a great shot commonplace. And with the advent of 3D rendering, it may surely be that the need for professional photography will be a thing of the past. I have lately been doing still life shots where the product has been integrated after the fact in post production using a 3D render. The down side of it all, to me, personally is that images are all looking too perfect. Specially beauty shoots which are making the subjects so perfect they look like dolls. 3D rendered faces are now almost indistinguishable from the "real thing" even to the point where the humidity in the eyes is very believable. Amazing, fantastical composited images are now so commonplace that I am starting to find them boring. It is only because older folk like me still remember what photography used to be like that this moment in its history is apparent. In a couple of years we won't be around to mention the change.
Now... if we ever globally loose electrical power, glass plates, linotypes etc may come back to be the normal mediums. But we are close to extracting zero point energy from the quantum vacuum so I can only imagine the wonders that will bring.
Getting old is a new experience though! ;-}
The Times They Are A Changing - certainly, but it has been a long way coming.
A.I. has been around of quite some time now (I believe early 1980’s), but it was ‘harmless’ back then.
Only recently, with much faster computers and an fast advance in algorithms, there has been reached a level high enough to make it work, in ‘practical’ applications.
I think, that no matter what we can discover, it can be applied to the good of all of us, or to the good of a few (which mostly means for the bad of the rest).
And it is quite obvious that the few, which also ‘happen’ to be the powerful, decide how something is being used.
As most of the A.I. technology has been developed by Intelligence- and Military fundings, the primary applications seem obvious and we see it closing in on us every day.
We will come to an understanding, that most jobs will become oblivious. Steel arms and silicon minds will do it much cheaper and no strikes.
I think we have to reinvent ourselves and this will apply to almost any profession, so we are definitely not excluded.
I personally have no problem with the possibilities A.I. (and for that matter Evolutionary Programming) are offering me. What I do have a huge problem with, is how I foresee that manufacturers of f.i. ‘camera’s’ are going to implement A.I. I am afraid that it will be hidden from access for us and made to suit, as Dan calls them, the boboise - (if I remember well :-).
In the ideal situation, where we can access the parameters of the A.I. software, or even better, train the software to our needs, a huge new domain is being opened.
Maybe it’s easier for me, being a free artist, to make the shift, than for someone who is a product photographer.
Anyway, I have already anticipated this for a while and have been digging into software to create graphical- and geometrical images (Processing, Mathematica) and 3D software to expand my tools.
I think I can stay ahead of the A.I wave and make use of it. Only, I need access to parameters or learn how to cook up my own A.I.
Up till 2015 I have been involved in music, and as I was writing applications - for my own music mainly - to help me compose. I was writing Evolutionary Programming software which helped me to create new harmonic progressions and new rhythms.
What I mean to say, don’t be afraid of the 'new electric saw’. Use it to make new stuff.
Of course I am not blind at all for the ‘negative’ uses and effects of A.I. As a matter of fact, I have little hope that it will make a better world. But then again, what will with the people in power that we have - and I am looking higher up than idiotic presidents in ‘some’ countries.
Let’s think in new ways. Photoshop and other digital applications once were a very new way too. And now, who could do without :-)
All the best, Beat