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.