people’s approach and perception of photography have experienced a fundamental change through the transition from analogue to digital technology. photography has become a mass phenomenon, an enhanced form of communication. in the following interview, markus hillebrand, manager communications & pr at nikon, tries to explain where the fascination with photography lies, and why it has become such an essential part of our lives.
mr. hillebrand, where does the big fascination with photography lie for you?
is it not fascinating to be able to capture situations, moods and events, just at the push of a button? by now, everyone can create good-quality photos – through digital photography, getting started is easier than ever.
for most people, looking at photos usually means also taking a look back at moments from the past. is a photograph something like an eternal document, a “visual piece of evidence“ for the future?
photographs can serve many purposes: they are souvenirs, documentation, art, and – sent by e-mail – also communication. this means that photos are an essential part of our lives. thanks to the advantages of digital technology, people are taking more pictures than ever …
why do you think japan has this particularly big, decades-long tradition of high-quality photo technology?
that’s a good question! i think that at the beginning of the last century the fine-mechanical and optical industry was quite well developed in japan, and there were engineers with visions, who were convinced of this new technological development in photography. by the way, back then nikon got their know-how for lens production through opticians from germany.
media photos can produce a manipulated reality, a certain perspective – and they can influence people accordingly. so photographers actually have quite a big responsibility in our society, don’t they?
everyone who decides to make his work public needs to think about the impact it might have. if someone manipulates an image, i believe he should indicate that. it is an important stylistic device in arts, but it does not belong in journalistic reporting. photographers, just like editors, have a particular responsibility in our society: they are opinion leaders and are able to direct the public’s view in a certain direction through their portrayal of things. especially in journalism, photography has a strong emotional expressiveness next to the hard facts, and therefore it has considerable impact.
what is the most striking difference between analogue and digital photography for you?
through digitalization, photography has become easier and has advanced to higher quality. with a digital camera, taking good-quality pictures is possible for much more people today. the previous knowledge and experience that were needed to produce technically good images with an analogue reflex camera are now for the most part taken care of by the digital camera’s technology. the photographer therefore has more time to focus on image detail and effect. whether this now makes for more beautiful images or not is another question, but this also is a matter of taste. in any case, much more pictures are taken now than in analogue times. storage capacity for digital images is extremely affordable, compared to having to buy film and then getting the pictures developed on photographic paper.
digital photography has become a mass phenomenon, much like mobile telephony. a photo is taken quickly and uncomplicatedly, but it is forgotten just as quickly. does a photograph of today in a way have “lesser value“ than an analogue image of previous times?
i don’t think that the value of photographs has changed, but rather their use. the classic photo album for example is replaced by the web 2.0 platform flickr.com; everyone can create photo books at home on their computer; millions of digital images serve as wallpapers on cell phones or are sent by mms etc. in a way, the photo serves as a new form of communication. does such a mailed snapshot have any less value …?
in the times of camera phones, has it become easier or harder for quality brands like nikon to differentiate themselves through high-class cameras?
both areas have their target groups. the hobbyists and professionals appreciate nikon’s quality, and reflex camera photography is more popular than ever. on the highly competitive camera market, reflex photography records especially high growth rates – being the market leader, nikon of course benefits from that. and for many people today, the camera phone is their introduction to digital photography.
are people actually still (or again) interested in black-and-white photography?
of course there still is interest in black-and-white photography! especially in the artistic world, or for portrait pictures - black-and-white photos are still very popular today. by the way: with the new generation of our digital reflex cameras, you can set the black-and-white mode before taking your picture.
consumer behaviour has changed completely after the breakthrough of digital photography. whilst in the past pictures were mostly taken at special occasions, today people are taking photos at every opportunity and are staging themselves – for fun, to entertain, to communicate. is it important for a camera manufacturer like nikon to also be aware of social currents and trends in society?
yes, definitely! nikon pays close attention to people’s wishes, their individual needs and patterns of use. this is why we for example develop beginners’ cameras for the compact camera segment in our “life series”, aesthetically outstanding cameras in our “s series”, and particularly efficient cameras in the performance segment – to meet every customer’s need. aside from that, technological developments – like live view, red eye removal, portrait autofocus or wi-fi connection – are the features that satisfy the customers’ demands on the market.
how and where do you see the future of photography?
the digitalization of photography and the improvements in camera technology are opening up whole new possibilities for hobby photographer as well as professional. fast autofocus, our image-stabilizing vr technology, and miscellaneous photo assistants enable virtually anyone to take good pictures. just a few years ago, you needed to bring expensive cameras and a lot of know-how. today, nikon is offering affordable reflex cameras, which beginners can use to perfect and expand their photographic skills step by step. but a lot has happened in the professional segment as well: iso levels of over 25,000 [nb: extreme light sensitivity], eleven images per second, motive recognition, and integration of cameras into networks via wlan support the professional photographer in his work today. along with this, there are the possibilities of the internet, like file sharing, geo tagging [nb: image information including coordinates], online galleries, photo blogs etc. – the photographers of today are linked globally and exchange views and experiences. all these are exciting developments, and we are following them and integrating them into our cameras.