Nothing is definitive. Things change as we shift our perception of them. Capturing a moment in time with a camera does not equate fact. It is only a glimpse at a reality in flux. Does it really matter what device we use to collect our fleeting experiences? In my mind to document a sliver of our existence has the potential to be beautiful in all it's forms.
The essence of photography is seeing. There is a lot more to it then pointing and shooting. It is not just seeing what is in front of you but also having a vision of what it can become as an image.
The artist must recognize that what is in front of the camera is just a starting point. The image included here is one I happned to shoot of a lilly pond with a DSLR. The water was only ink black when the glare of the sun was avoided and the perspective flattened when shot overhead. I cropped out extraneous information and made other formal decsions to make the image what it is. It wasn't the camera that made the image, it was me.
While quality and craft are important in art for several reasons, concept is also key. Sometimes our concept is supported via low-end technology and that's okay. However, if one does not have a need for grain, pixels, or blur and happens upon the effect by mistake then the result is just poor photography.
There are always going to be split camps when it comes to analog devices vs. digital. But assuming we are discussing only digital here let's contemplate a somewhat recent rise in photography taken with mobile digital devices. Some Artists who use photography as their medium of choice are feeling somewhat threatened by this development and the claim that everyone can be a photographer with a cell phone in their hands. Can one truly call oneself an Artist when they put down their pricey DSLR and begin crafting images with their hand held camera phone? That depends...
With the DSLR comes manual controls and high-res image files. Up until recently camera phones just couldn't compete. However, with the file size rising at a fast pace it is now possible to entertain the thought of printing a larger print of an image taken with a phone. There are also manual camera apps out there to simulate the techniques you could develop with a DSLR. Not exactly the results one would get from a large camera lens but in a pinch these images don't look half bad.
What it really comes down to is intent, control, and good old fashioned heart and soul. While the growing popularity of the camera phone has made it easy to get a great shot that doesn't make everyone a talented Photographer. Everyone can get lucky if they click the shutter release enough times but few are true storytellers and visionaries when it comes to capturing the essence of a person, place, or thing.
The technology in use does not matter, it is the individual Artist who is fueling the machine. Pioneers of Color Photography such as Stephen Shore are using Instagram
and has been featured in the TATE's articles on the Art of Instagram, as seen in the image to the left. The New York Times is doing a write up of the "Mobile Photo Paris" Exhibition. Photographs produced with lower end technology are getting recognition. DSLR photography is one type of photography - Mobile Phone photography is another. Recognize the differences but at the same time do not dismiss the potential. Everyone has a camera at their fingertips now but no reason to feel threatened by the democratization of photography. Wonderful images are produced every day as we travel through our lives snapping up shots left and right. But there will always be a difference between great pictures and great photographers. Fancy DSLR or inexpensive phone,Great photographers do great things no matter how simple the tool.