The images surrounding the first African American US President, Barack Obama, will indisputably be an important part of the historical record of our country, and, likely, the world. I believe it’s this new era of photography–both in the creation of images and how they are spread–that has brought us a more interesting, diverse, and never-before-experienced range of images and access to them.
And setting campaign platforms aside, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to examine the images of the new President and their distribution as an example–or indicator–of the breadth of recent changes in photography. Consider the following:
_Presidential images not only as historical reference, but as fine art.
Photographer, Callie Shell, documented Obama’s road to the White House and has a reported more than 400,000 images of him. A brilliant selection of these are already being exhibited and sold as fine art by Soulcatcher Studio, a photography gallery in Santa Fe that used to focus on the likes of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, and Elliott Erwitt.
_Obama’s YouTube Channel, Flickr stream, Facebook page, and Twitter.
We’re leaving an era where (for legal reasons) both Bill Clinton and George Bush didn’t send a single email throughout their entire presidencies. And now things have changed so quickly that our Commander in Chief has numerous new media outlets for photos and video on a daily, or sometimes, minute-by-minute basis. [here’s his YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter]
_Unsuspecting images from the sky.
Did you have any idea that satellite images with half-meter resolution were being collected and shared from today’s ceremony? I didn’t either, but if you visit this GeoEye gallery (free, downloadable, sharable, even high res), it will blow your mind like Google street-view (thanks Martin!).
Phone snaps, Mino vids, you name it; and it’s all getting “out there” fast. The above image was one of a barrage of up-to-the-minute iPhone snaps that my wife Kate–left side of the frame–emailed, tweeted, and Facebooked me from the inauguration today.
And the list probably goes on for miles. But remember this list is not about the new President, it’s about you.
Today these new models act to supplement the more traditional models of newswire, newspaper, magazine, and books; but tomorrow they will almost entirely supplant them.
When you consider these changes have happened essentially between the last inauguration and today’s, that’s a huge pile of change in a short amount of time. Sure, at its essence, image making is still the same: the capturing of images from the world around us into some reproducible medium. But in every way besides its essence, it is very different than ever before.
What some photographers see as peril is seen by other photographers as possibility. If you haven’t already, you should decide how you’re going to view this new era of photography.
Viva la change.