The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction

(cc photo by SusanAstray)

(cc photo by SusanAstray)

Chris Bertram started getting serious about amateur photography about three years ago. Recently, he’s taken up shooting with film and offers some reflections including:

Using an old technology also makes you very sharply aware of how digital is changing society. The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction? Don’t make me laugh. Even in that age, there were craft skills to learn, significant entry costs, and money to be made. The world where every amateur with a DSLR can produce images good enough for print and can license them for sale to Getty Images on Flickr is not a world where many people can earn their living from taking pictures. You have to be very special, very well networked or in some real niche market for that.

The reference is to Walter Benjamin’s essay in case you haven’t read it.

This is essentially the same phenomenon as the crisis of productivity that’s slashing employment and compensation in the journalism business. Of course the flipside is that without digital photography and the Flickr Creative Commons pool, the budget I would need to put this blog together would be infeasible.