In the last fifteen years, photography has morphed from a niche professional and artistic craft into a primary mode of communication that rivals that of speech and writing. Its accessibility to the majority of people on the planet affects all of our lives in a profound and remarkable way that hasn't yet been fully explored.
Photographs have always been used to communicate something, inspiring the adage from the turn of the century, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Now, that communication is no longer tethered to the restrictive nature of printed images, slides and film. The widespread use of camera phones, cloud storage and image sharing networks has broken most barriers to sharing any image in seconds with the rest of the world.
There are more than four billion camera phones in active use on the planet, and the latest statistics state that more than 800 billion images will be taken in 2014. The myriad explanations about who is taking photographs, why they’re taking them and how the images will be used is growing at a dizzying rate.
We are approaching a global society of photographers trained by our image-obsessed environment. Advertisements and media products bombard us with images, and we bombard each other through social media. These platforms' ever-expanding audience is learning to recognize and produce high-quality photos, receiving realtime feedback on the effectiveness of images via the number of “likes,” shares and retweets. We’re encouraged to compete with ourselves, and others, for more impressive content every day.
The conversation about this new paradigm is currently fragmented. Academic studies are just beginning to filter in about the implications and enormity of this cultural shift. Regular articles about social media trends and practices appear in major news publications; tech blogs cover the latest apps and inventions; photography and media educators discuss the newest techniques and occasionally lament the loss of the former iteration of the medium.
This new, possibly endless frontier of photography deserves a more earnest, open-minded investigation. Brave New Camera takes a thorough and unprecedented look at the contemporary uses and impact of photography in our society.