It’s those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running, and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane
~Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, Jimmy Buffet
Recently, well maybe not so recently as I have been off traveling and spending time with family, I have been contemplating several observations from the writings of other photographers and their conclusions or decisions regarding photography.
With the great shift in photography with the advent and growth of digital photography and the ability to share images in the digital realm ad nauseam, it appears we are now faced with another giant shift with the introduction of AI. I am not going to address AI, merely the decisions it appears some photographic artists are making. And while some of their decisions may be the result of AI, it has been interesting to read why they are leaving or lessening their involvement in photography.
The decision they have made to step back from photography has to do with other interests or with the impact that AI will have or is having on the creation of unique human art. Initially it was difficult to understand why these artists would give up an art they have spent 30 to 50 or more years in. Why? They have become masters in a wonderful art form and yet they are letting it go for other pursuits. Or in some cases because of the dubious nature of AI to copy an artists style and create a work similar to the human artist.
We like to think of ourselves as unique and indeed as humans we are. But what happens when that uniqueness is deleted due to a computer or other mechanical means? Is there a way to combat that threat, protect our work and our unique way of visually communicating?
The loss of these artists saddens me. I am inspired by their art and their insights into the art and into life. It is like the early loss of a loved one and the impact is felt not just immediately but in the years to come. Voice lost too soon.
As I mentioned I have wrestled with how I felt about their decisions and why they would make a decision to let it go. But then my own similar experience with the martial arts came to mind and how I have elected to move on after over 50 years as a practitioner. I started in Jr High and from there moved to obtaining a black belt, obtained training from the army and then onto law enforcement.
This progression led me to realize the sport aspect of the martial arts was really not effective in true street or self defense or law enforcement situations. This realization forced me to move from the sport aspect to train in the more real application of preparing for lethal confrontations on the street or in combat. And as I studied I realized that all of the other martial arts were based on sport or on a misguided notion as to what street confrontations are about. Real combat and lethal fighting methods have been watered down so as to make the “new” art usable and salable with the public.
I could go on with my perspective and experience with the martial arts, but suffice it to say I have left the sport and the ineffective watered down, movie stunts behind. And I guess that is why these photographic artists have left or moved on, or stepped back.
But I have to ask myself are there other reasons perhaps we should consider? How much time has to be devoted to the side tasks of being an artist – working on a website, updating social media posts, updating inventories, working on finding show locations, writing releases, maintaining email addresses, various business and accounting processes, and so on.
At what point is there really not enough time to commit to the actual making of art? In her excellent book Through Another Lens, My years with Edward Weston, Charis Wilson noted that after ten years of writing in the Daybooks, Edward came to an inevitable conclusion in his writing the Daybooks. Edward felt that “the five years working in Carmel had given him a new confidence in his way of seeing and in his general direction.” And as Charis points out, “That meant that what he needed now was not more time for rumination but more hours to photograph and more money for film.”
The answer has to come from inside after we consider what we love and the commitment we are willing to make to our creative endeavor. Any endeavor actually. Weston determined the Daybooks were no longer needed and was ready to spend all his time creating art. We reach our conclusions based on similar experiences.
While I do not know all the details in these artists decisions to move on, significantly curtail or quit completely, I do respect them for what they have shared. I will miss them as they have contributed to my growth as an artist and as a human. And that is what I will miss, their voices speaking in the wilderness, seeking beauty, warning of the diminishing uniqueness of the human voice.