Saturday, October 23, 2010

"The war between old and new is a false construct. Nothing goes away."

… I lose patience with pundits who prophesy and lobby for the demise of all traditional media in favor of newer forms. - David Granger, Esquire Editor-in-Chief 

I covered the Georgia Literary Fair today at Georgia Southern University. The focus was on books. Real, honest-to-goodness printed books, their authors, and people who love to read them. I photographed a woman who loves to read books. She loves the feel of them and how they smell. And I spoke to some student volunteers who also said they loved books but, ironically, were fiddling with their smart phones while on break.

 Then I ran across a quote from which the title of this blog comes from.

I often think about the future of my profession. What will it look like? Will photographs be viewed only on tablets and smart phones? Will photojournalism be a viable career choice in an environment where everyone expects information to be free and where news organizations troll for free material from amateurs and hobbyists as the lion's share of their content? Will photojournalism as a full-time job be reserved for only a select, super-talented, ultra-committed few?

Sometimes, that's the picture being painted. (That's a quaint saying, isn't it?) Many appear to be advocating for the complete abandonment of printed communication, or "Legacy Media," as they say with a snarl. Maybe I am becoming a dinosaur, but I can't help but feel that some stories are more appropriately and most powerfully communicated in print.

Fact is, today's digital viewing devices simply can't adequately display the images modern digital cameras are capable of producing. The iPhone 4 touts itself as the highest resolution smart phone ever made at 960 by 640 pixels. Sounds impressive, but all those pixels are packed into a 3 1/2 inch screen. So, no matter how far you zoom in, you are still viewing a 3 1/2 inch image.

We go ga ga over gigantic High Definition televisions. No matter how big the screen, however, the resolution remains the same: 1920 by 1080 pixels. Professional level digital cameras are capable of producing TEN times that resolution – or more. In other words, an HD TV is capable of displaying only 10% of the detail captured by a pro digital camera.

Newspaper reproduction is limited, too, but it still requires an image roughly twice the resolution, or more, than that of HD TV to print adequately. Ever consider what you might be missing?

That's just technical mumbo jumbo, however. What photographs communicate, and how they do it, is more important. And I firmly believe that print is still often the best way to present still photography. On digital devices, photography is too often presented as video - in a linear fashion. An on-line slide show simply doesn't produce the same experience as a two-page spread in a broad sheet newspaper. And size does count. Does anyone believe those pictures of the World Trade Center on 9/11 would have been nearly as impactful on smart phone screens instead of on the front pages of our newspapers?

I love technology, though. The Digital Age offers opportunities to tell stories in more different ways than ever. We can appeal to a much broader audience. We would be fools not only to resist, but not to embrace the opportunities. But that doesn't make more traditional means of communication any less rich or valid.

Anyway, I'm glad someone like Esquire’s David Granger is better able to articulate how I feel.

For the full quote, click here: Words of Wisdom from Esquire’s David Granger - Mr. Magazine.

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