If the last three years of landscape photography have been built around the miracle of miniature four-blade helicopters we call drones, 2020 will bring a little of the old and a little of the new.
Photographs of distant celestial bodies, of dizzying star trails, satellites, meteor showers and star clusters, and doing so in a manner that delights and inspires, is one of the hottest new trends in photography. In what other fields can you see the past and the future?
The washed-out, over-exposed look has stayed a photographic constant over the past half-a-dozen years. In an era dominated by interior decorators chasing a Hamptons feel even a less-than-stellar photograph would sell if the colours were desaturated. In 2020, we’ll see a return to dazzling pastels and hot primary colours.
You can thank Instagram for the shift away from landscape to square and vertical orientation. Highways disappearing into a mountain range, waterfalls dominated by a dramatic foreground. In expert hands, a challenging and exciting reinvigoration of well-known scenes.
Similar to the overkill of drones, the blanket-use of Photoshop has created a demand for simple, snapshot-like moments: a mother with a baby, the smile of a child in a crowd. The great, and timeless, Slim Aarons knew the value of a moment unclouded by manipulation. Stand back unobserved and…
Of course, the essential being of the photograph, whether it’s in 1920 or 2020, remains the same.
As the great American fashion and portrait photographer, Richard Avedon, said, “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
Now considered one of the most famous realism photography projects ever was undertaken in the 1930’s when the US farming market collapsed after World War I. A group of photographers were commissioned to provide visual evidence of the devastation and the project resulted in over 80,000 photographs taken. Probably one of the most famous one was this photograph taken by Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936. A portrait of Florence Owens Thompson (1903-1983).
Medium format film cameras
It ain’t a secret that you can replicate the look and feel of a film photograph in Lightbox or whatever image manipulation software the artist uses. A few tweaks on the controls will reproduce the obvious grain and the slightly washed out or vibrant colour. You can even drop the image into a scan of an actual film frame.
The appeal of shooting on old medium-format cameras such as the Mamiya RZ67 and the Hasselblad 500 series, both popular among high-end photographers, is where the accidental magic is created. A roll of film has twelve frames – compare that to the thousands of photographs able to be shot and loaded onto a digital camera’s card. Suddenly, the application of light on the subject becomes a variable that must be studied and perfected rather than the hit-and-run perfection of digital.