The Digital Journalist
And Things Not Yet Invented
March 2007

by Beverly Spicer

A black-and-white, manual camera, available light, candid photographer hasn't much place in a multimillion color, fully digitized, artificially lit world, and so it was quite a while ago that many of us covered our lens caps and hung up our favorite photographic rock 'n' roll shoes. Speaking for myself, sitting in the squeaky, uncomfortable folding chairs along the wall to the side of the main dance floor for almost two decades maybe hasn't been all that bad, but, it requires great imagination to figure out how to sit still when all I really want to do is dance. Those who kept on dancing and learned new steps aren't necessarily happier, but they have stayed employed and connected to their first love. Whether they've stayed in love is another question.

All in all, the technological revolution is and will continue to be a challenge to everyone in every way, and it has social, political, economic and other consequences both conceivable and inconceivable that are far-reaching and all- encompassing. In a rapidly changing world, the demand to adapt is relentless, and performance is sometimes but not always rewarded commensurate to effort, talent or skill. The bottom line is that transition is difficult no matter what you do or which way you go. The answer, so says every professional photographer, is adaptability. Shaken from our roots, it is Darwinism all the way. Survival depends on fitness, and fitness first and foremost depends on the ability to adapt.

While you consider the validity of these thoughts or how they might apply to your own involvement with photography (or anything else), ponder the adaptive ability of the following very small-business operators. Click on the photo to enter a gallery of amazingly imaginative uses of limited vehicular capacity, something motorcycle enthusiasts out there will especially appreciate.

It is no secret that legislation and court decisions are staying one step ahead of the little guy these days, as underscored by the content of current copyright agreements. This is a favorite topic of conversation among working photographers as they struggle to retain ownership and receive adequate remuneration for future use of their work, something that is often a losing battle. Photography is alive and well, so the latest argument goes, but licenses for fair use in various media cover not only the living media but also the as-yet-unborn. For instance, newspaper contracts for freelance photojournalism protect future possible use (overwhelmingly to the advantage of the employer) in a multiplicity of ways, in every existing medium, and then even include what my friend Keith calls "things not yet invented." The exact wording in contracts to describe every unanticipated or not-yet-invented possibility is this: in any form or medium whether now or hereafter known throughout the world.

Things are not always what they seem and that will continue, as evidenced by contracts anticipating developments that don't yet exist but may come "hereafter." So again, the key to viability is adaptability, unless of course through that very process we inadvertently render ourselves obsolete or even extinct. Photography may technically be doing better than ever, but working photographers may not be if they cannot retain enough ownership of their own work to survive economically. I can't help but believe this is true not only in the field of photography but also on a macrocosmic scale where—to use the provocative phrasing—things unknown to us now might develop hereafter throughout the world.

This column exists primarily to present digital creations from cyberspace, so, speaking of things not always being what they seem, take a look at the following designs, something I have heretofore not seen. We are having a debate as to whether they are real or simply photo illustrations. Click to enter the gallery.

The upside of relentless pressure to adapt is an explosion of creativity, which springs not from without but from within. Every artist knows that the by-product of the creative process is a sense of renewal and hope. With technological changes forcing us to be flexible, it is possible to be constantly reinventing our style, scope, and even domain. Look at these clever ways of thinking outside the box that we think are delightful and probably lucrative.

Several winners of the Oscars this year gave inspirational acceptance speeches, and I perked up when the winner of Best Live Action Short Film ("West Bank Story") said: "Hope is not hopeless." I also liked Al Gore's statement in accepting the Oscar for Best Documentary Film ("An Inconvenient Truth"). He said, "People all over the world…We have everything we need [to solve our problems] with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."

Here at The Digital Journalist, we are all about renewal and problem solving. Editor/Publisher Dirck Halstead created the Platypus Workshops to help photographers become flexible in a fickle professional world that alternates between still and video, film and digital photography. It's up to us also to move positively to embrace things not yet invented…and for that matter, maybe even to invent them!

© 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.