Most of us recall the song entitled ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ written by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes, and Bruce Woolley in 1978. While video may indeed have killed off many radio stars, it won’t be nearly as successful with photographers, and I am about to outline why this is the case.
It may be argued that we live in a world of instant request and spontaneous gratification. Some say that anything falling short of those immediate demands will simply disappear, but will it? When we compare the sightless medium of the radio with the audio and visual appeal of video, the result was inevitable. With photography we are dealing with an opposite effect, and that is why it continues to thrive in the fast paced modern world.
People want to be entertained. The more stimulating, the more fun they have. Video gives us a passive, almost lazy way to entertain ourselves if you please. We sit back and allow the entertainment to ‘amuse’ us. We are the passive recipients of ‘entertainment’. It is this very mindless diversion that sees many people reclining in front of the ‘Idiot Box’, and indulge in what some call vegetating until bedtime. With moving pictures, the viewer is seldom challenged or required to participate. Instead, we are bombarded with a continuous flow of information. We are spoon-fed this material at a rapid rate, and we don’t really have much time to process it all. It happens far too quickly. In a sense, it is life, just sped up! It is a lot to take in with little time to absorb it all. Photography is the reverse of all that moving pictures provides us. It offers us a mere frame, one snapshot in time. Rather than trying to assimilate a stream of data, we are required to pause and actually observe. We stare into a moment that is literally frozen in time. We know that precious moments have passed us in the time that it has taken for us to explore this little slice of life, and yet, we are willing to spare the time. It is a profound meditation. Video is like a hyperactive child that does not stop moving until its energy has expired. It has a beginning and an end. It runs for a time and then is finished. Sure, you can watch the moving images again. You can even pause the video at every frame to look for what you have missed. You can … but then that is what photography is at heart. That is the difference between the two mediums. One rushes along and is fleeting, and the other is a moment that lasts as long as the medium it is created on. You can always print another copy too.
Spellbinding imagery will capture the imagination and hold it gently. It encourages our eyes to wander — and wonder — over the still picture before us. We explore, probe, and seek out hidden details within the composition. This is a similar trait that photography shares with other still artwork.
Where video numbs and stimulates at the same time, photography allows us to slow down, to contemplate, and to see more with less. Stop a moment and experience life in a single frame.
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