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Digital media is changing the face of photography

Digital media is changing the face of photography - ePHOTOzine spoke to photography and culture expert, Martin Lister and took a look at Nikon's latest research to see how the internet is changing the way we display photographs.

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Nikon S1000As the need to share photographs continues to grow, so does the technology to make photo-sharing easier. During the 19th century we had the stereoscopic viewer, the 1940s witnessed the introduction of the View-Master, then there's the Magic Lantern and the popular slideshows of the 1980s which played an important role in family life. This concept is something Nikon believe to be important and as a result, they've revisited and modernised the concept of projected photography.

Ten years ago, photographs could often be found in photo albums or in the occasional frame hanging on walls, but today, people can be found crowding around camera LCD screens or logging online to see the latest birthday or holiday snaps.

According to photography and culture scholar, Martin Lister, this more open approach to sharing photographs began with what's referred to as Web 2.0 – a time when people began to share and participate rather than just looking at one-way, static websites.

"Social networking sites are one of the major manifestations of what Web 2.0 is about," explained Martin. "While people could get web space to store their photographs the whole business of discussing, tagging and networking came along when sites such as Facebook began to appear. Since then we've seen an explosion of social networking sites in which photographs figure a great deal."

Instead of having to be a 'whiz-kid' to be able to put information online it's now become rather accessible and easy to do. According to research conducted by Nikon, 46.8% of the pictures Europeans, and 35.7% of the images Brits take are now posted online, but this doesn't stop us selecting and choosing what exactly gets posted. Nikon's research shows that 28% of us will ask friends to remove photos we don't like and 8.3% of people always want to approve images before they appear online. Even though we seem to be concerned how we're portrayed in images that appear online, the legalities surrounding the process seem to be no concern for some.

"Most people who you might call members of the digital generations, people in their early twenties who have grown up with the internet, swim in it. They're using it without thinking about it. I also think they're aware of profiling, tagging and a degree of surveillance but don't seem, on the whole, to get very worried about it."

In reality, you wouldn't create a giant poster of your friend, on a night out, enjoying a little too much drink and then stick it on a billboard somewhere but, for some  reason, people are quite happy to upload similar images and paste them on the internet for the world to see.

"Yes, there are some concerns and some are worried about ownership, authorship and privacy but the whole thing is a learning process. We work with, particularly with regards to photography, some very old fashioned concepts. For example, 'I own this picture, this is my picture and I own the rights to it' and this concept has got thrown-up in the air by the internet. If I do a Google image search, for example, I can often find a bunch of pictures from Facebook. The changes have outstripped our legislation really and we need to learn what to do about it . Eventually, I think this will be done through legislation and test cases but for now, this problem doesn't seem to bother most people."

According to Jo Bryant, etiquette advisor for Debrett's, modern technology needs us to change the way we think and it's slowly forcing a new code of etiquette on us.

"I think etiquette has to change as society progresses and I think people will start to become more concerned when they realise they're responsible for their manners online as well as off,” explained Jo. “When people are sitting at their machines they feel anonymous - when they're not - and it's quite an easy trap to fall into. The statistics Nikon uncovered showed how easy it is to do this. It doesn't matter if you're sending an email or posting something on a social networking site you should always be aware of your online etiquette especially when you're dealing with photographs as that's when you're involving people in a more public fashion."

Nikon teamed-up with Debrett's to develop some simple photo 'Netiquette' advice.

"We get enquiries here all the time about this type of thing so the points cover the issues most people are concerned about with their online etiquette and how people are posting photographs."

Debrett's have noticed a growth in anxiety among people who are becoming more concerned with how they can protect their identity online and also how not to upset people.

"It's on people's conciousness and we've all read the stories of people who've lost their jobs because of photographs that have appeared online."

There's an argument which suggests we're in the middle of a Web 2.0 boom and that this need to upload photographs and content, like the previous dot-com bubble, will eventually burst. One day, people will have explored all there is to see on social networking sites and they'll move on. But according to Martin, this isn't true for the way we use and view photographs.

"People will always share photographs. You can look at photography as an early form of the internet. Before photography you couldn't distribute images very easily. I know they had paintings but these were hard to carry, they took a long time to do etc. so in that view, people have always shared images and this sharing has now had a huge boost from the convergence of photography with digital media."

With this growing need to share photographs, Nikon have created a new form of showing photos - 'Projectography'.

Jeremy Gilbert, Group Marketing Manager at Nikon UK, said: "It’s the art of immediately displaying images and thus, your personality, through projection. And we’ve just created the perfect way to do this with the world’s first compact camera with integrated projector, the Nikon COOLPIX S1000pj."

Martin added: "What's great about this new camera is it's revived an old way of looking at photographs. It's quite an inspired notion, it's quite interesting really."

To learn more about Nikon's research see ePHOTOzine's news section.

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AlexHD57 8 19
24 Oct 2009 12:36AM
"We work with, particularly with regards to photography, some very old fashioned concepts. For example, 'I own this picture, this is my picture and I own the rights to it' and this concept has got thrown-up in the air by the internet. If I do a Google image search, for example, I can often find a bunch of pictures from Facebook."

I think we need to be careful here. This is still a very contemporary concept, in fact even more so as web 2.0 facilitates people, often unknowingly, or through ignorance, infringing copyright owners rights. Don't forget also the attempt by facebook to effectively grab the rights to everything posted on their site. These should be media for sharing content that are still respectful of legal rights.

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