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Point, Shoot, Repeat

By Abraham Vazquez • Aug 7th, 2012 • Category: Features, Lead Story

Focus. Composition. Light. These are the three most important components in making a “perfect photo.” This is true especially when using a film camera because you don’t want to waste any shots. But the days of film were numbered the moment the first digital camera hit the market in 1994. Now, all you need to do is point, shoot, and repeat until you have the perfect shot.

Digital photography is everywhere. Walk into any popular tourist locale, like Times Square, and you will see everyone busily shooting photos with their DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras, point and shoots, or camera phones. Most of the time people are taking blurry photos, their composition is completely off, and they use pop-up flashes even when there is plenty of light.

“The whole reason you pick up a camera or a photo-capturing device is because there is something that you see that you want to grab,” says Jordan Cortese, a senior at Hunter College and a photographer of seven years.

So why do people care less about the work they put into getting an image and more about just taking it? Cortese says, “For me, getting better at [photography] means you’re trying to get more efficient in capturing those moments that stick out to you.”

Cortese, 21, grew up in a home of photographers. His parents and grandparents wanted to take images of everything that concerned the family, “even if it was a bad photo,” Cortese says. “To my family, photos were memories captured.” He still lives by that motto today. When Cortese is out on his professional shoots or when he is simply using his iPhone to snap street photography, he is capturing moments.

The convenience of digital photography makes it easy for anyone to be a photographer. “If you pick up a device and take a picture, you’re a photographer in my book,” Cortese says. As for light, composition, and all the other stuff of professional photography, Cortes takes a populist stance: “All that stuff gets intimidating for people,” he says, “when you tell them they aren’t really a photographer because they haven’t been schooled in it or they don’t take it seriously.”

Cortese appreciates platforms such as Instagram and EyeEm, two popular photography-based social-networking apps, because, as he puts it, “who the heck is going to tell you that your photo is crap? No one!”

Today Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook this year, has over 50 million users and is used by everyday people, celebrities, and, yes, even professional photographers. Like Facebook itself, Instagram allows people to share, view, and report virtually anything.

“We are at the best point in our lives,” says Cortese. “The fact that we don’t have to wait for a professional photojournalist to take a photo and for it to get to the paper for us to see what is happening is very liberating.”

While this increase of documenting history is very true, the rise of digital photography is hurting those who live off of photography.

Edgar Mattey, a professional photographer from the Bronx, has been a fashion photographer since 2006. He believes the digital-mobile trend is causing the passion of photography to dissipate. He says, “People come up to me all the time and say ‘your camera takes great pictures! Can you help me find one?’” He feels people in general are “giving all the credit to the equipment as opposed to the ‘eye’ of the photographer.”

To Mattey, a photographer is someone “who is looking to get a reaction from their viewer and not just capture an image.” He said that he likes to “turn an everyday girl into a model” through his photography. That is how he gets reactions.

Because of this widespread trend, work “is like a yo-yo,” Mattey says. “There are seasons where it’s up, then there are seasons where it’s down.” Since “this is an industry that’s available to a 12-year-old,” he adds, people don’t appreciate good, old-fashioned, professional photography anymore.

Going back 30 years to when film photography was strong, people practiced the discipline of patience. You shot your roll, sent it to a lab, and waited a few weeks. Only then could could you finally see the moments you captured. Today, Cortese says, “I can take a photo and show it to you right away and we can live that moment together.”

Still, Cortese does not think that the distinction between the long process of film and the expedience of digital is the reason people have jumped on the bandwagon of digital photography. “Film costs money,” he says. “The accessibility to get a camera was way more limited than it is now.” As a result, the film market is doing terrible.

One example is The Eastman Kodak Company, more commonly known as Kodak. It was the dominant photographic film company during most of the 20th century. In 1976, there was a 90% market share in photographic film sales. But in the late 1990s, things started to go bad for them.

In 1997, Kodak’s stocks were as high as $86.75 a share. Four years later, in 2001, they dropped to$25.57 a share. Today, Kodak’s stocks are down to $.27 a share (known in the market as a “penny stock”).

Despite such massive changes, however, photography is still photography. And the ubiquity of new technologies and platforms makes the medium accessible to practically anyone. Even photographers like Jordan Cortese see that as a good thing. Cortese’s advice? “Just go out and take photos. Just do it!”

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