With all the chaos emanating from the White House last year and continuing unabated in this one, I almost forgot the big changes I personally experienced in 2018 — namely moving to another state (and never looking back), and creating a new website, Alighting, to showcase my photography. Besides organizing images in a way that’s more meaningful than chronological order, it eliminated the need or desire to publish a book that I’ve fantasized about for years. If you haven’t checked it out yet, or just skimmed a few sections, I invite you to give it a whirl.
Of everything newsworthy I read last year, two photography-related items made a lasting impression. A NY Times report, All the Light There Is to See? 4 x 10⁸⁴ Photons? describes how a “team of astronomers . . . measured the total amount of light [that’s] ever been produced by all the stars in our universe.” As a photographer, I like to think of myself as a purveyor of light and this article got me thinking:
1.) For starters, I had to acknowledge that despite the importance of light in my images, I never dwell on its source, the distance it traveled to get here, the time it took, etc., etc.
2.) What if light were a finite resource such that every time a photograph was made, a tiny bit of it was lost forever? Would I still want to be a photographer?
3.) Where does bioluminescence fit in? The light given off by fires, explosions, or lightning? I wonder too if the amount of artificial light that’s ever been produced were measureable, would that total even register on the same scale as light from stars?
4.) Remember when we determined exposure by measuring the amount of incident or reflected light with a light meter? Compared to what these researchers did and their final number, it’s comically humbling in retrospect.
I highly recommend the piece if you haven’t read it already. See if it doesn’t give you a fresh perspective on life as well as photography. Feel free to share your own musings in the comments.
Ditto for this PetaPixel post showing how artificial intelligence can now create realistic-looking portraits of people who don’t exist. Scary stuff. Given other AI advances, e.g., turning paintings into photos, summer into winter, horses into zebras, and deep fake technology that shows people saying or doing things they never did, I think photography’s days are numbered. Once AI capabilities become ubiquitous, the tools we use now are sure to go the way of glass plate negatives and daguerreotypes. Can you just imagine future versions of Colonial Williamsburg in which blacksmithing demonstrations are replaced by re-enactors showing how selfies used to be made? Why you may even be given one to take home with you.
Fortunately, very little of this will come to fruition in 2019 so there’s still some time left. We may be fighting a losing battle but at least we can go out in style – upping our game and partnering with light to make images that reflect our passions and embrace our place in the universe. That’s something machines or algorithms can never hope to do.
Note: Fellow photo blogger bluebrightly shares a similar sentiment in a recent poem that is far more eloquent and lyrical.