Is now photography’s golden age?

Some photographers, especially those of my generation and older, yearn for the old days of film. They think that things have gotten too easy in the digital age and they lament the fact that the photography’s golden age of Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, and others, is gone.

(8/3/19) A visitors takes a picture at the art installation Field of Light at Sensorio by artist Bruce Munro, which consists of more than 58,800 LED lights on stalks nestled in a gently sloping ravine a few miles out side of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

While it’s true that those early days of discovery of a new medium are over, I believe that today’s technology has brought a new era of photography. One of democracy.

(03/17/17) Min Le of Folsom takes pictures of daffodils on the opening day of Daffodil Hill near the Mother Lode town of Volcano in Amador County. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

It’s a trend that’s been happening almost since the invention of photography, albeit slowly. In the beginning, the photographers knew not only knew how to take pictures, but develop them as well. Those old cameras, you know the kind with the photographer draped beneath a large black cloth to help them to focus, were big, heavy and difficult to operate. One had to know what they were doing. The Kodak Brownie camera, introduced in 1900, brought photograph to the masses and the snapshot was born. All you had to do was press the shutter then send the film off to Kodak for developing your pictures.

(1/9/17) Seven-year-old Arlene Dean poses for a picture for her stepfather Robert Killingsworth while posing next to one of 2 golden bear statues that stand in front of in the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Other innovations came along to help spread photography’s popularity. In the mid-1930s 35mm film allowed for smaller, easier handling cameras. By the late 1940s Polaroid introduced its first instant camera. Later advances in auto-exposure and auto-focus helped make things easier for the average picture-taker.

(8/29/19) University of the Pacific student Matt Chang poses for a picture with mascot Power Cat at the university’s Fall Fest on the UOP campus in Stockton. The event was put on by UOP’s Division of Student Life to inform students about the college’s various organizations and resources to help them succeed. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

With each step forward more people became able to take pictures with greater ease. The digital age has seen the greatest advancement in the democratization of photography. Electronics and computerization of cameras have increased ease and accuracy of cameras (although not perfectly). And within the last 15 years or so, cellphones have revolutionized the way we think about and take pictures.

(4/19/18) Regina Tso takes a picture of some roses at the 3rd anniversary celebration of the completion of Stockton World Peace Rose Garden, one of nine in the country, on the grounds of University Park in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO.THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Nearly everyone in the world has a mobile phone with them. It only takes a few seconds to take it out of a purse or back pocket and start taking photos. And it can only take a few seconds more to send those images to a friend, a family member or post it to social media.

(6/19/19) Debra Reeve of Sacramento takes a picture of the historic Preston Castle in Ione on the structure’s Quasquicentennial, 125th anniversary, celebration. A re-enactment of the arrival of the first seven wards of the former Preston School of Industry and tours of the castle were held. [CLIFFORD OTO.THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Our phones are not only cameras but are mini computers as well. We can store thousands of pictures on the latest ones with more capacity coming with every new generation of device.

(10/26/19) Javier Lara takes a picture of the Catrina Pageant at the Dia De Los Muertos Street Fiesta in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Like in all democracies, it’s up to its citizens to be informed and educated and responsible. I can’t count the times that people have said to me “ I don’t take good pictures” There are billions of cellphone photos taken every day around the world, the vast majority of which are, at best, mediocre.

(3/14/13) Soccer fans break out their cameras to get a shot of soccer star Cuauhtemoc Blanco during an exhibition game between the Club Dorados De Sinaloa of Mexico and the San Antonio Scorpions FC at the Banner Island Ballpark in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

For a talented few, taking great photos comes naturally. For the rest of us it takes hard work and a lot of practice. If you want to take better photos there are things you can do whether you shoot film, use a DSLR or take your pictures with a cellphone. Take a photography class, find an online video or read up on the subject. There are tips that you can do. Get closer to your subject, watch your backgrounds and look for good light. But most of all you have to practice. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. And since everyone has a phone with them nearly 24 hours a day, you practice anytime, anywhere.

(8/3/19) A visitor takes pictures at the art installation Field of Light at Sensorio by artist Bruce Munro, which consists of more than 58,800 LED lights on stalks nestled in a gently sloping ravine a few miles out side of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

My guess is that if the famous photographers of old were born into today’s digital age that the medium and equipment wouldn’t matter to them. They would embrace it and use the technology as a tool for their creativity. Don’t pine for the halcyon days of old, the golden age of photography is now. Go out and take advantage of it.

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