Digital Pioneers

As I mentioned last week in my post about the late photographer Martin Munkacsi I want to share some of the research I have been doing for my thesis and art classes with you all here. This week I want to bring to light the insightful words of legendary fashion photographer Nick Knight. If you've never heard of his name you've probably seen his work. He started photographing in the 1980's after deciding that following in the steps of his scientist family was not for him. As technology has progressed Nick Knight has become exceedingly involved in using every technique there is available and then showing the public the process of it through his fashion film website SHOWstudio.

"There is a lot of discussion about manipulation being a negative thing and I think photography has been saddled quite wrongly in my opinion as the bringer of truth, as the witness to the un-witnessable event....

Just as those early pioneers of photography must have also felt that they were doing something different from painting, 
I feel a sort of kinship in that way. 

So if there is any link to be made between myself and the early pioneers of photography it’s simply being at the beginning of a new medium – but I’m not at the beginning of photography. I’m at the beginning of a new medium which is defined by the Internet, digital technology, mobile phones, even 3-D scanning."

As a digital photographer, especially one who proudly uses Photoshop and overlays I feel a kinship to Knight's attitude towards manipulation in digital photography. Although I agree that there is something unbelievably magical when you can get a great film shot but the same magic can be discovered when you create an amazing digital image. At my school there are some photographers who feel that anyone can be a digital photographer because you can just keep shooting until you get "the shot" but that is obviously not true. There are also some people who feel that when you manipulate a photo digitally then you aren't a true photographer because you have undermined the original image but adding extra things to it. 

"....there are different media that you use, that you choose to work with and there are different forms that you express it with. To me, there’s no difference between the moment that you start photocopying things and cutting them up, to the moment the model stands in front of the camera, between the moment that you’re sitting in your room thinking ‘What would it be like if we mixed that with that?’ It’s all part of the continual process of which I don’t see a sort of helpful way of dividing it up. What I’m trying to say is that a lot of people view that, the moment you take the photograph, as a paramount moment in the whole of the equation…I think it is an important moment but I think there are a lot of other important moments, and so I don’t make any difference and therefore I don’t have any problem with swapping from things cut up on a light box to then moving them around in Photoshop; any more than I have a problem moving from one lens to another and changing film, or asking the models to stand, sit, pose, move, etc."

"Before, if I wanted to do a set of photographs I would have to convince the magazine publisher, a music company, or whoever it would be – some client – to allow me to publish that series of photographs. And it would be to some degree to, you know, nearly always, to make somebody money, whether it’s a gallery owner or your dealer, your gallery dealer, or whether it’s the head of Warner Brothers or the head of Condé Nast. Somebody in the end is making some money from you. Now that relationship between the artist and the audience has fundamentally been changed by the advent of the Internet. Now I can publish a set of pictures, not for anybody else’s financial benefit, and other people can see them, and if they’re good, people like them and want to see more of them, then they’re not going to be ignored. It’s a simplification of the situation but it does mean that not only can we communicate in a totally global and unfettered way but it also means that the sort of work that we do now is much more free."

As an artist being trained in a traditional fine art school I find this comment from Nick Knight on the business side of the industry to be very interesting. Many people at my school look down on photographers like Knight because they claim that he is not a true art photographer because he is getting commission for each shoot he does. I find that reasoning to be extremely ridiculous because you would think that the whole reason we are going to school to be artists is so that we can get paid after graduation versus struggling our entire lives as starving artists. None the less as we can see in Knights statement everyone or someone is getting paid somehow someway and it has only been recently that we can truly explore the possibilities of photography with the invention of modern technology. 

"The Internet as a communication device is revolutionary, as much as paper was when it was first invented. I think we now have a completely new way of communicating as a species and I think that’s never really happened before. The fact that I can take my mobile phone, take an image and have it published within a split second to a global audience without anybody saying to me, ‘Well, is that going to make me any money?’ 
– that’s a revolution."

I was talking to a friend the other day about my thesis work and blog and he remarked about how it was interesting that I am only allowing my work to exist on the internet because I don't make any physical prints of my photos. At first I thought about how that was a negative thing because if electricity went out one day I would have nothing to show of all of my work. Then I started thinking about how it was a positive and kind of revolutionary thing to be creating something that you can only see online. How I can connect to all different kinds of people from all over the world versus just the handful of people that come to an art gallery in Miami. It's a whole new audience, a new perspective, a new set of standards that are determined by me and my viewers. This is something I will be exploring further this summer and hope to not bore you all to death in my musings. All of the quotes from Nick Knight in today's post are from an incredible interview he did with Alistair O'Neill for LCF Centenary Book that you can find here on his website

All images and quotes by Nick Knight