Well, these comments made by German film director and photographer Wim Wenders are going to upset a few people. In a talk with the BBC, he says that he believes photography is dead. That it’s been killed by mobile phones. Well, I guess we should probably all just pack up and go home, then.
His, probably quite unpopular opinion all stems from his belief that everybody’s a photographer. That there’s just no point now because everybody can shoot photos with the phones in their pocket.
We’re all taking billions of pictures, so photography is more alive than ever, and at the same time it’s more dead than ever.
The trouble with iPhone pictures is nobody sees them. Even the people who take them don’t look at them anymore and they certainly don’t make prints.
– Wim Wenders
He also says that most of those photos never get seen – even by the people who shoot them. To some degree, that may be true. But his claim that people don’t make prints anymore…
Well, there’s plenty of labs around the world that would likely disagree. And mobile photography has spawned whole new businesses solely dedicated to printing your photos off Instagram, Facebook and other social media. Fuji and a number of others have also launched printers in the last few years specifically designed to let you print from your phone.
He also says that rather than allowing us to be more creative, all of the filters and presets are actually stifling our creativity. And this is one point I can get behind. He says that from personal experience, the less you have available to you the more creative you have to become. I completely agree. This has been my experience, too. But this is about the only thing I can agree with.
While Wenders blames mobile phones for what he says is the death of photography, he admits to taking selfies. But he says that “it’s not photography”. Surely that’s a personal and conscious choice? Sure, many selfies aren’t much more than a set of duck lips in a badly lit bathroom mirror. But that don’t have to be. Some are extremely well thought out.
His last claim, though, on retouching and image manipulation.
Photography was invented to be some sort of more truthful testimony of our world than painting.
It’s not really linked to the notion of truth any more. People look at photographs and think something’s done to them.
I’m sorry, but photography has always been a lie. “The camera never lies” has been one big fat lie itself since it was first coined. Simply by changing perspective or focal length, the image tells a different story than if you’d chosen to shoot from a different spot with a different lens.
And he seems to forget that there was a whole lot you could do in the darkroom to completely change the look of an image. Even with landscapes, Ansel would make new prints from a glass plate decades apart, and every print would look different to the last, made years earlier.
You would think somebody who’s made movies for over 50 years would already know this.
Wenders says that he’s searching for a new word to describe this. To describe this “new activity that looks so much like photography, but isn’t photography anymore.
Personally, I don’t think it does need a new word. And I certainly don’t think photography’s dead. The number of people who visit websites like this one on a daily basis clearly shows that it’s not.
And, to be honest, even if it were true, even if the masses had “killed photography”, why should that affect what I want to create? Why does he care so much about what other people are doing? Maybe if he’d concerned himself more on his own work instead of what others were doing, he’d have received more than just a nomination.
But what do you think? Do you believe that photography’s dead? Or do you think photography has been reborn anew in a digital age and we’re only just beginning to see where it can really take us?