It is the last day of January 2022. Tomorrow another year begins, bringing with it the hopes that somehow 2023 will be better than the last.
It’s also the end of the second 365 I’ve completed on the bounce. A substantial 700 photographs that I was at least happy with on the day they were published, plus a few dozen extras that I’ve either published alongside, or left to gather digital dust on my hard drive.
For 2023 I’m quite looking forward to going back to shooting when the motivation arises, rather than every single day. However, there were many positives from the past two years.
Trial by fire
It is all too easy to find yourself caught up in whatever the most urgent thing of the day is. Every day brings new challenges, many of them external, but unless you carve out some time for yourself you are likely to burn out eventually.
Forcing myself to shoot not only engaged my brain in a creative act, it forced me out of the house to walk or cycle in search of things that were interesting to photograph. Inevitably some days are better than others, with some great photos mixed in with some entirely forgettable ones. The thing is, the great photos would likely not exist if I hadn’t forced myself out of the house to take them.
I need to make sure I don’t fall into a rut without something to push me along.
A.I and creativity
The latter part of 2022 saw creative people up in arms as A.I. generated art started filling our social media feeds. The debate around whether an A.I. is ever truly creative, or whether it is going to put illustrators on notice is in full swing as we head into 2023.
Is A.I. ‘creative’? This is a question that presumes we humans always are. Many of us, whether we are painting; taking photos; or making music, often take inspiration from what has come before, often subconsciously. An A.I. will inevitably take “inspiration” from art that is fed into its database. Will it be ground-breaking? Who knows, but is anything in the ‘top 10’ of the music charts ground-breaking? How many photos have you seen from the top of Rockefeller Centre of the Manhattan skyline?
A.I. may become the bedrock of derivative illustrations, YouTube videos, stock photography and formulaic pop tunes. It will allow the corporate world to dispense further with the trappings of human-driven creativity –employing sentient bags of meat to perform creative tasks whilst paying them the least they can get away with, but much like “AAA” video games, manufactured pop music and reality TV, people will tire of it and go looking for art made by people who actually care and have something to say.
I believe this will be more of an upending of corporate media than the independents. It is likely that Simon Cowell will be replaced by an algorithm; that Electronic Arts will get an A.I. to replace the player names and box art for future versions of FIFA and Madden rather than pay developers to change last year’s product in any meaningful way; and Disney will use ChatGPT to write future sequels to its existing franchises.
People who make art will continue to do so. The act of creating or moving our bodies is what adds value to our lives. Working with our hands, travelling under our own steam, strumming those chords and using our medium of choice to say what we really want to say.
The tools for making and self-publishing music, movies or art have never been more accessible. Many of us have everything we really need on our phones. If you can find your audience, it really doesn’t matter what A.I. tools are available. Make what you want to make and above all, enjoy the process.
On that note, Pentax has announced a new film camera project, not long after Leica announced the re-release of its legendary M6 film camera. The future for human creativity may well be analogue after all. That reminds me, I still have a half a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 to finish off.
On that note, I received as gifts a number of photo books this year. Most recently was the excellent London/Wales by Robert Frank.
Way back in the 1950s Frank was in the UK plying his trade as a documentary photographer, selling a few of his photos to the likes of the Observer to pay the bills and get him to his next project.
Of particular interest to me was the time he spent in Wales following the miners and their families in Maesteg.
Decades later I’m surrounded by the remnants of those industrious years. The old railway and tram lines, the tunnels and the coal dust. The mines are gone, but the scars remain.
I don’t have a single project in mind for the coming year, but I will be adding to existing ones. Postcards from the End is something I’ve been adding to gradually, but I’d like to add something more cheerful into the mix. I’ll have a think about that one.
I do need to spend more time riding my bike, so I’ll continue to add to Whilst Out Cycling as I go. I also need to re-publish some more bicycle tales.
In any case, I’d like to thank you for following along on this journey and hope that 2023 turns out to be a good year for you.
Have a happy new year!