What Questions Will Define The Photographic Future?

Never before in time has the world traveled so fast. What you learned as a kid, simply no longer applies. Much of what I learned throughout my college career is obsolete. And technology I bought a mere five years ago can bring chuckles from 16 year old daughter.

It’s easy to look back and see what’s changed along the way. But how do we look forward and predict what’s going to happen?

One great place to follow future thinkers, and learn what they think the future will look like is TED. TED brings out new videos every week from the greatest minds in the world. And occasionally they hold TED conferences that bring many people together in different locations. This week, TED is hosting TEDGlobal 2011 in Scotland. And one of the things that caught my eye from their blog was not a video, but instead a question they asked the audience.

What trends should we be watching?

And the answers bring a lot of insight into the direction we may be heading.

“The internet is a huge platform to leverage citizen participation in the world.”

“I see three institutions going away in the next ten years: marriage, schools, and hospitals.”

“There is a growing and dangerous trend of reducing complex ideas to simple ones.”

“Technology has outstripped imagination; let’s bring imagination back to the forefront.”

Is Photography Imagination?

When you work with technology, things tend to be black and white. You do something and get an expected response.

And that tends to be how a lot of photographers operate these days. The term “spray and pray” comes to mind. Instead of knowing what you want to capture, what story you want to tell, you simply jump in and take dozens of pictures, hoping you capture something that’s “workable”. Then you had back to the office and work in Photoshop for hours, until you attain the look you were going for.

In order for photography to be a true art form, you have to think first, and click the shutter second. Take a look at this video by David Griffin, photo director for National Geographic.

In it, David talks about the “flashbulb moment” – the moment that lives in your mind for eternity – what you saw, what it was like, how it smelled, what you felt. Pictures don’t give you a flashbulb moment. But a photograph can, and it can convey that message not only to the photographer, but to every person that views it.

And that ultimately is the difference between an amateur and a professional. An amateur takes one or two flashbulb moment photographs; a professional creates them all the time.

You have to have storytelling power. Instead of showing knowledge of what’s happening, you must showcase empathy. You must go beyond the superficial, and expose the reality of the situation. No matter if you are capturing a child’s first birthday portrait, or showcasing the plight of animals in the wild.

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