Trends in photography

Many photographers (me included) generally discuss their photographic journey in terms of the equipment they have used. Much of the time those that I talk to are mostly interested in telling me about the camera they used, not the photographs, and rarely print the images they made with their cameras.

Popular trends in photography, in many cases, direct many photographers’ choices of photographic equipment. However, what about trends in photography? By that I mean the images we produce and the trends in picture making in which we engage.

I think many photographers are content with unedited colour, however, there are those that enjoy making black and white prints, and, of course, many creative photographers are producing images that don’t fit squarely into the categories of straight black and white, or colour.

During the height of film processing there was a procedure called “cross-processing”, that is, deliberately processing film using chemicals intended for a different film, for example, developing colour negative film in colour slide film chemicals. Today the cross-processing effect is just as popular and achieved using PhotoShop by altering colour channels, switching the red with blue channel or the blue with green channel and so on.

Many photographers, and I include myself in this group, have had their digital cameras altered so they only “see” infrared light and find the resulting pictures thought provoking and exciting. The resulting enlargements are usually crowd pleasers at exhibitions. Kodak used to make an infrared film that produced wonderful grainy images, but I think now that it is among the many films, like Kodachrome, that have been discontinued. I should mention that there are many computer programs (like PhotoShop) that will convert digital files to infrared-like images without a costly camera alteration.

Films and photographic papers that produced other worldly, final images were once the “in-thing” for artistic photographers, and I used to have photographic papers with different coloured base coats like gold, blue, red, brown and so on. I remember a film that when processed would always have a sepia colour and there were also chemicals that toned photographic papers. For years I enjoyed making paper negatives, solarizing my prints and producing bas-relief images. Bas-relief involved using lithographic film and produced line drawing-like prints.

Many, or all of these effects can easily be done with programs like PhotoShop. When I deliver the album to my wedding customers I always include many sample photographs converted to black and white, and I add some that are toned differently, and include “posterized” and “soft-focused” photographs. When I used film, I would make soft-focused images by holding a gold fish net over my lens, or I sprayed glass with hair spray and placed that in front on my lens for a soft ethereal effect. Now I have computer programs that I regularly use for those and other creative effects that my clients enjoy and might even anticipate.

I wonder if any of the trends that I have mentioned or any others, past and present, will continue into the future. I have always liked manipulating my images, but will any of those photographs, or the popularity of the process used to produce them, stand the test of the time?

That’s a question posted to me by Chris, a reporter and photographer from a local newspaper. “Do people want certain styles? Are there any dangers of getting a wedding shoot that’s really stylistic versus something more traditional?” He wondered at the staying power of manipulated images and if “looking at those in the future will be appreciated as much as they are now?”

I suspect images that are altered from the original will always interest and amuse us. Some dependent because of whom the photographer is, others because of what was being said visually about the subject, and I guess some because that moment in time might make the images classics. I am thinking about the images of past photographers like Man Ray, and years later by Jerry Usellman.

I expect I could add another page philosophizing about which images will have staying power into the future. The simple answer is “it’s up to the owners and viewers of photography”. Photographers each approach photography, and those photographs that are enjoyed, differently depending on our experiences. With this in mind I pose that question: In this world of easily manipulated images what trends will go forward into the future? Or will it only be the traditional, “straight” colour, or black and white photographs that will endure and provide meaning and value to viewers in the future?