The Joy Of Living In A Digital World

By Brooke Shaden

When I picked up a camera for the first time it was not to experiment with photography. In fact, I didn't even like photography. Instead it was to very strategically turn my dreams into reality. The first time I picked up a camera I never doubted that I would be able to create my own dream worlds using this tool. To me, this was a fact and that fact has propelled me into creating my own unique worlds.

As most people do, I start with an empty frame in a camera. The possibilities of what I could fill that frame with are endless. I choose not to point my camera at the world around me and click, hoping to get something magical. Instead, I fill the frame with my imagination. I will not take a picture unless the scene in front of my camera is as surreal and whimsical, or dark and mysterious, as what I see in my dreams. My pictures are staged, very much the same way that a painter chooses his subject, composition, color palette and other aesthetic choices before picking up a paint brush. I make these decisions before a camera lands in my hands, often only taking about five pictures per photo shoot. Every detail is pre-conceived before a piece of equipment ever enters the picture. However, every detail could hardly be conceived of in the world of photography without technology. I am a girl of the digital age.

In my image "Running from Wind," I was able to carefully construct the details of the picture. The girls run in front of the camera, both looking back, insinuating that something is chasing them. Every detail speaks to a timeless scene, a world that is unique from our own yet still touches on reality, and a mood that is not of this world. All of this is possible because of the digital age. That picture was created on a very early, foggy morning, just me, a camera, tripod, and my friend. It was created in a day but conceived of for much longer. My dreams are my reality; I know them very intimately. The joy of living in a digital world is that dreams no longer have to be kept inside. They can be turned into new worlds; they can be our reality.

The journey from the moment I picked up my first camera to my current life has been one of rebirth. The technical pieces that I taught myself along the way are irrelevant compared to the way I have changed how I think. No longer do I imagine the world I want to live in, I live in it every day. To part with my camera now would be like saying goodbye to a piece of myself. The two have become woven together and intertwined, and there is no future for me without photography.

Brooke Shaden's photographs seem like little films, complete with character, tension and a lush visual sense that might easily be called cinematography. One of her exhibited photographs was recently selected by director Ron Howard as one of eight photos used to inspire a short film. See her work in Digital Darkroom which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

The Creative Revolution

By Joel Grimes

It is estimated that in 2009 Flickr hosted over 4 billion photographs and Facebook users uploaded 30 billion images.  This is just the tip of the iceberg with no end in sight. On the video front, YouTube now has over 12 billion views per month.  We are without question in the greatest age of photography since its introduction.  Never in the history of mankind has there been a greater opportunity to experience the creative process, and the ability to share it with the masses. We are in a Creative Revolution.

I often meet people that have only been taking pictures for a few years, and when presented with their work, I am simply blown away. In today's digital capture and manipulation era and with the hyper accelerated pace of learning and sharing, it is possible to accomplish in one or two years what took an average person say, 20 years ago, to accomplish in 10 years.

In 1979 Bob Dylan wrote about a "Slow Train Coming," but in 2011 that train is moving at a high rate of speed.  Miss that train and you will be left behind.  It is a rude awaking for those of us who grew up with Bob Dylan and have dug in our heals, resisting the digital age.

Part of accepting this new digital era is being willing to re-examine the very definition of photography.  If we define photography by the technical process or by the tools used in that process then we are bound and obligated to work within that definition.  A few years ago when I first started doing photographic composites, I received all sorts of criticism stating I was no longer a photographer but had now become an illustrator.  Somehow we had accepted the manipulations done in camera and in the darkroom, but when it came to working in programs like Photoshop, well that was somehow cheating and crossed the line of traditional acceptance.

A few years ago I sat down and asked the question, "from the glass plate process to the new digital process what constant denominator has never changed and will never change in the future?"  The answer is this: the creative process.  In the end, the single greatest dominating unchanging force that drives the photographic process is that it takes an artist to create.  What tools we use should be completely secondary to the creative process.

Once I let go of my preconceived definitions of photography and focused on my exploration and uniqueness as an artist, my work literally took on a whole new life. I was now free to explore the creative process without the restraining boundaries that once kept me in check by the definitions established by others.

Joel Grimes makes his living in commercial photography but has a parallel career in art. Grimes combines an artistic vision with an impressive fluency in the technical aspects of photography, creating images that make viewers see the world anew. See his work in Digital Darkroom which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

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