Just read American Photo 30th anniversary issue, and remembered my subscription is up for my renewal early in 2009. I realized I’ll have been reading this mag for 20 years. I started in 1989 just before they changed their name. American photo has been as inspiring as it is informational.

I also realized that 20 years was enough. I’m not renewing.

My own waning interest (and complete disinterest of my photos by others) should have been enough to make me put down the camera long ago. Plus, I was never able to afford a really good camera (Pictures of the old Nikon F4S still gives me shivers). But, I’m a stubborn man. Once I get set in my ways, I seldom vary. I stuck with the equipment I had and the inspiration I got and made some great memories. So why now? My wish to move on was spurred by a realization.

‘Photography’ as an actual art is evolving (Or devolving, depending on your perspective). New software automation advances, higher inclusion of automatic photo-editing software subroutines in camera firmware, and the continuous advancement of processing capabilities in photo analysis and facial recognition, all highlight the path that photographic technology is headed. Soon, perfect photos won’t be an effect of experience and talent. They’ll be the result of the latest programming.

Imagine higher resolutions allowing wider field of angle lenses, which in turn allow for automatic cropping for content. Basic compositional rules and facial recognition (and maybe even component recognition like trees, flowers, sky, windows, chairs ..you get the idea) will form the basis for that content analysis. In-camera automatic HDR systems paired with ultra-low-light hardware will ensure proper exposure all the time, because it’s now possible to determine proper artistic exposure levels for every photograph AFTER THE PICTURE WAS TAKEN. Advanced heuristics will allow the camera to learn what types of photos a photographer usually takes, and learn what content and exposure preferences are used most. And best of all, the concept of “post-processing” will be eliminated because all this will take place in the camera before the photographer lifts his finger from the shutter button.

The new era of photography will be one in which the perfect photo isn’t just common, but expected. A bad photo will cause a camera to be returned to the manufacturer for repair. A perfect Demarchelier boudoir portrait made by your drunk brother-in-law staggering around a local bar during his bachelor party… an Ansel Adams landscape from a child’s cell phone… this is our future.

Is art still an Art when everyone can do it? This is the question professional photographers will face in the coming decades. I fear that it isn’t. Commonplace abilities shouldn’t qualify as art, even if this means the professional photographer is doomed to extinction. And maybe that’s the real reason why I’ve stopped reading. Even though this eventuality is still far away, it’s hard to watch the slow demise of something you’ve strived for so long.

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