By Kim Ashley
Ever since George Eastman came out with the Kodak camera and the advertising slogan, "You press the button. We do the rest," photography became the art form of the masses.
Then came the digital photography revolution in the 1990's and now, according to a recent survey, snapping photographs ranks third among preferred adult activities behind, you guessed it, having sex and dancing.
This has led some to argue that digital photography is no longer an art form since anyone can do it. Sadly, a recent story on NBC's Nightly News seems to confirm this allegation.
Exhibit A is this self-portrait, selfie, taken by a macaque monkey in Indonesia. According to the report, wildlife photographer, David Slater, spent three days hiking into the remote jungles of Sulawesi when he came across an incredibly friendly troop of crested black macaques.
One day, Slater turned his back on his camera, and one of the more inquisitive macaques started admiring himself in the reflection of the lens. Then the monkey accidentally hit the shutter button. According to Slater, "the sound got his attention so he kept pressing it. He must have taken hundreds of pictures before I could get my camera back."
"Of course," Slater offered, "most of them were out of focus."
This latter comment is small consolation to the thousands of digital photographers of the human species who struggle mightily with the new digital technology, trying to figure out all the bells and whistles and trying to understand all the jargon: ISO, white balance, matrix metering, histograms, high dynamic range, etc.
Human photographers in fact spend thousands of dollars on the newest equipment. We join camera clubs, attend workshops, and read countless "how-to" books, for the sole purpose of getting just one compelling image. Just one image that arrests attention and that compels other humans to say, "Wow!"
In short, just one image like the one above, taken by a monkey in the remote jungles of Indonesia!
OK...let's chalk this selfie up to beginner's luck. That, at least, salvages some of our human pride.
Meanwhile, we continue our quest to learn this newest art form--digital photography--an art and a craft that's supposed to be so incredibly easy yet remains a mystery to many of us.
In the end, however, I hope we don't lose ourselves in the books, the technology, and the jargon. I hope our heads don't eclipse our hearts. And, most of all, I hope that we each get a chance to stand, for at least one moment, in the hairy feet of that Indonesian monkey and take one glorious photo for the sheer joy of it.