The Digital Journalist
Winds of Change
February 2007

by Beverly Spicer

Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal. ~Arthur Schopenhauer

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ~Eric Hoffer

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. ~ Charles Darwin

Many adages about change were written during times when in a relative sense nothing changed at all. In previous eras, fundamental change took millennia, centuries, or generations to manifest. Now, not so much--and that is an understatement. Change is progressing as never before and at an exponentially rapid rate. It may be true that the more things change the more they stay the same, but most of us at present are completely dazzled by the rapidity of change happening in almost every way in the world, all around us, and in our own lives. Rapid transformation works quite favorably for some, but for others, it is stressful beyond comprehension, even lethal. To survive and thrive means adaptation and especially a generous measure of good luck.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, photographers began to realize that the digital age would be consuming the photographic industry, and that it would be happening sooner rather than later. What sounded prophetic in 1987 has already come to pass, and for professionals and amateurs alike, new vistas of opportunity presented themselves while other doors slammed forever shut. In a spirited and lighthearted way, Kodak has produced an in-house, tongue-in-cheek video that illustrates a very entertaining look at the changes in photography.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. ~Leo Tolstoy

Things do not change, we change. ~Henry David Thoreau

Technologies exist today that 100 years ago could never even have been dreamt of, and some have emerged just within the last few years that would have defied anyone's imagination even a decade ago. Soon if not already, a single photograph and a short recording of your voice can be transformed into a completely animated, computer-generated facsimile of you, voicing anything the creator wishes to have you say. As with most technology, the creative possibilities are endless if not also frightening. Visit oddcast dot com for information about virtual characters and voice syncing. In the following "3-D Morphable Face Model" animation by Volker Blantz, see how an image can be algorithmically transformed into an animated video of the subject that, paired with voice-syncing, might be indistinguishable from the real thing.

Whosoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details. Knowledge is not intelligence. In searching for the truth be ready for the unexpected. Change alone is unchanging. The same road goes both up and down. The beginning of a circle is also its end. Not I, but the world says it: all is one. And yet everything comes in season.

You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing in. ~Heraclitus of Ephesos ca. 500 BCE

In spite of these politically troubled, stressful times, much of the current change is innovation that is enormously positive. The age in which we are privileged to live and compelled to witness offers opportunities for expression and creativity as never before. In the 1980s, speakers at professional photography and computer conventions envisioned the digital world of that time as a sort of tabula rasa for which content had yet to be provided. They said babies born in the '70s and '80s would become the true masters of this new tool, and when these post-boomers arrived at artistic maturity we would see creations of such profundity and scope that it would change the world. We have already seen a lot transpire, but if those visionaries were correct, we have seen nothing yet. Delightfully, along with the frightening there is the frivolous, and the following photo illustrations are an interesting combination of the old and the new. Click the image for a series of photos, artist and photographer unknown.

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. ~Abraham Lincoln

The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. ~Charles Dubois

Anyone familiar with the concept of synesthesia knows there is much mutual inspiration, crossover, and even confusion between the visual and auditory arts. Photographers learn from artists and artists learn from musicians, and synesthetes experience resonance to the point that they can "see" music and "hear" color. This was graphically demonstrated in 1940 in the Disney film, "Fantasia." Nobody knew the creators were smoking marijuana and taking drugs, opening their own doors of perception. The positive thing about that opening was that those who came after inherited the opportunity to do it without drugs, sometimes through meditation, sometimes through inspiration, or via what in the '60s was called a "contact high" from being with other creative souls. Magnum photographer Gilles Peress, speaking of the goldmine within each of us and how we should release it without fear of exhausting our supply, asked, "What will happen? What are you waiting for? Won’t you just have MORE?" Here are musicians Bobby McFerrin with Richard Bona, who seem to possess an endless supply of ever-changing improvisational creativity and flow.

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position, and be bruised in a new place. ~Washington Irving

Here's to artists in music, photographic, visual and literary arts who are demonstrating and contributing joyful creativity in response to our uncertain, violently changing, heartbreaking, but beautiful world.

© Beverly Spicer

Beverly Spicer is a writer, photojournalist, and cartoonist, who faithfully chronicled The International Photo Congresses in Rockport, Maine, from 1987 to 1991. Her book, THE KA'BAH: RHYTHMS OF CULTURE, FAITH AND PHYSIOLOGY, was published in 2003 by University Press of America. She lives in Austin.