While at PhotoPlus Expo in New York City last week I had the opportunity of attending a special event sponsored by Adobe and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This event was a panel discussion regarding the Future of Photography with panelists Thomas Knoll, Co-Creator of Photoshop, Jeff Rosenheim, Curator in Charge, Dept. of Photographs, The Met, and Lynsey Addario, photojournalist and MacArthur Fellow. will discuss the future of photography. The panel was moderated by Sree Sreenivasan, the Metropolitan Museum’s First Chief Digital Officer.
The panel was a lively discussion about some of the significant aspects of the impact of digital photography over the past 25 of photography’s 176 year history. From the perspective of the creator of Photoshop, Thomas Knoll, he reminded people that the prepress operators not photographers were the first adopters of Photoshop. In the 1990s photography was still very much a film based industry. Graphic designers, printers and print media were scanning film brought to them by photographers. Digital imaging was very new and very expensive. 300 ppi scanners cost thousands of dollars as did emerging tech like CD-ROM burners. Yet Knoll’s creation was gaining steam and digital photography was steadily growing because of innovators like Graham Nash and Mac Holbert inventing digital printmaking using a IRIS 3047 graphics printer, and opening Nash Editions in 1991. For those of us who began our involvement at this stage, these were exciting times.
From the viewpoint of the photographer, Lynsey Addario her discussion was how she could get her images to editors much quicker than when she had to find a place to develop film, scan that film, then send it over phone lines via modems. Speaking of film, digital allowed for the breaking of the 38 exposure per camera limit. Instead of carrying three or four cameras so you had the ability to shoot 152 frames without reloading your camera. With a digital camera and memory card, you can carry a “brick’ of film, that’s 20 rolls of film, in one camera. Now when you carry three camera bodies, the extra bodies are either backup or for capturing video. However, Addario brought up another important issue with digital photography and that’s the ethics of image manipulation. Back in the early days, National Geographic was scolded for moving camels on its cover image of The Great Pyramids on the Giza plain. Now some photojournalist are removing and posing elements that are ported as being “real”. Some say it’s okay, because that what Mathew Brady and his team did during the Civil War, but dos that make it ethical?
As a photography curator, Jeff Rosenheim, spoke to how digital photographic creative and utilitarian technology allows the photography and in fact the Met’s entire collection to be accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. To be able to put hundreds of images on a CD, then later thousands of images on a DVD, and now unlimited images in the Cloud as opposed to reams of paper albums for distribution is quick amazing. Now, for the most part, all of that prepress work that was once sent out is now being done in-house. With the photography department being part of a new multimedia mix of graphic design, web development, video and audio studios all working as one.
With this new methodology, Photoshop has been a major player in establishing, the Met has named Sree Sreenivasan, as their First Chief Digital Officer. In this position Sreenivasan will “…explore new digital opportunities for the Museum and lead its Digital Media Department, which is responsible for managing and producing digital content—especially documentation and interpretive materials on the Museum’s collection—and for delivering it to a variety of audiences, both online and in the galleries.” During the panel his questions to the panel offered opportunities on the future of photography from application development, curatorial insight and artistic points of view. He also opened the conversation up to the audience.
The future of photography looks exciting along with being unclear for the present. However in the Metropolitan Museum’s magnificent The Temple of Dendur in its Stackler Wing, the celebration of Photoshop’s impact on the world of creative imaging cannot be overstated.