Linguists estimate that there are about 5,000-6,000 different languages spoken in the world today, but we see in only one language: photography. . . or should that be videography?
They are indeed two very different crafts. Telling a thousand words in a stream of moving video clips and telling a thousand words with one still 120th of a second are certainly not the same thing. But it cannot be denied that there is a link between the two art forms. Why else do film students study photography as a matter of course? Could videography be the natural evolution of photography or are they two equally developed co-existant cousins? And why would you choose one over the other? Perhaps the answer is that it depends very much on what is being protrayed through still or moving pictures and for what purpose.
For news reporting, for example, video has many clear advantages over still pictures. But one of the big disadvantages is that it is difficult to get video footage of unexpected news events as they occur. That, in conjunction with the media habit of saturation coverage and its subsequent voracious appetite for footage, means that sometimes inadequate video is heavily overused. Amateur footage taken by anyone who happened to be nearby, even footage from mobile phones, is used.
Just look at the powerful images in the World Press Photo awards every year and you will see how single fragments of time can be infinitely more moving than a hundreds or thousands of frames. These are taken by talented people who have honed their eye and craft. The legendary images from photojournalism have stood the test of time because they are both compelling and beautifully composed, dramatically lit, shot at the decisive moment and communicating compelling stories. These images make it all too clear that press photography is in absolutely no threat of being usurped by videography.
In everyday life documentation such as weddings, special occasions and holidays friends and family are still toting cameras and still giving the well-worn jovial order ‘say cheese!’ For after all, what video could replace that framed funny snapshot or beautiful portrait on the mantle piece?
Then there is advertising. It comes in all shapes, sizes and in increasingly surprising places. Photographs will no doubt prevail in advertising as in press, but with continual emergence of new media, internet and wireless applications, video footage is in more demand than ever. And these days, you don't even have to film your own video; you can buy ready-made clips from a stock footage websites. The industry is currently an estimated $300 million market and is expanding rapidly, just as stock photography industry did a few years ago.
Video is an incredibly rich storytelling medium. But then again a photograph shot at a peak moment conveys the essence of a story. Both photography and videography are disciplines, each as complex and powerful as you care to make them. But they are also just tools we choose, and not necessarily at odds.
By Niamh Prior, BA English and Film Studies, NCVA Photography
Niamh Prior studied English and Film and TV studies at Brunel University, London. She subsequently studied journalism and photography in Cork. This article is copyright of Niamh Prior 2008.