The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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As Chrstopher Hitchens, our transplanted British intellectual gadfly alluded recently on Larry King (CNN) one of the America's ugliest and cultural lowpoints, the nastiness of our election campaigning, will be over for awhile and then no more torturous embarrassment. But this election period is ending on an even sourer note with a financial crisis and an impending world-wide recession that the most astute economists see as being both deep and long. It may seem like a poor time to start something new, but for me I see it as therapy and an immunity from personal recession depression.

What the new is that I am beginning this blog to talk about my perspective on digital photography, as my main professional interest too will likely be affected by the world's economic plight, I am sure. That the flood from old film photography to digital will be slowed to a gentler stream as consumer wallets are zipped shut, will of course be bad for some in the business, but that revolution is largely complete save the small band of neo-Luddites and those still intimidated by computers.

We are in perilous times afloat in unchartered waters, and there is still a backwater who believe time can be frozen and reversed, but there is no stopping change no matter how frightening the prospects ahead. That some will find their rug pulled out from under them is happening and will probably accelerate before it slows to a stable normality. But focusing on the bad side of the times we are in, no matter how disheartening the prospect, does not help to travel through and past the rough water. How one looks at life and the dimension of it I concern myself with, digital photography, allows better things to come from looking at the world from the positive perspective of hope, beauty and joy by focusing on the good side. Images are a an old man's substitute for dancing in the streets.

Until the crisis we are in captured just about everyone's attention the pace of life seemed like being in the middle of a pack of dogs all chasing their tails. That an economy in recession will slow the velocity of life is a foregone conclusion, and being on a slower road will provide opportunities, as the old saying goes "to stop and smell the flowers". So how about responding to a more relaxed passage through life by making pictures of what we have passed by and missed in the rush to get ahead to who knows where in the recent past?

One of the good things if you already have a digital camera and a computer, even when money is short you can take pictures, and enjoy them on your computer, and unlike past bad times there is no cost of film and processing to inhibit your creativity. I just saw on Bill Moyers PBS show about a project undertaken by a successful music producer called Playing For Change that features "street" musicians from all over the world who spread joy and happiness to be alive to all around them. "No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, we are all united through music" is their credo and I believe all of the arts, including photography can participate in that same unitary humanism by sharing what is found beautiful and inspiring in the world.

Even the simplest and least civilized of people we know of living isolated in faraway places with meager sustenance all find some way to participate in art whether music, dancing, carving and decorating themselves or their habitat - art seems to be an essential part of our humanity. Long ago when I first started writing for photo magazines, I realized photography as practiced by most people is really the visual folk art of our time. So now in times less distracted by consumerism and getting ahead it may be a good opportunity to use a camera to express yourself and connect creatively to others to support our greater humanity. Even if you have nothing else to give in these tight times the gift of beauty shared with others humanizes us all with the joy of living.

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