Stay connected – Photography in the future/The future of photography

In 1997, in an era which still meant analog to me, I arrived in Egypt for the first time, and immediately felt such a strong attraction professionally that I soon decided to concentrate all my activities there. Side-by-side with the significant changes that have taken place in visual communication over this period, the way of recounting the world around us through images has also slowly changed. With increasing speed, the photographer has been transformed into something else, into a new type of professional who even I do not really understand.

My professional background is divided into two main parts, mountain photography and art photography (the latter including both art as heritage and art as the artist). Despite the two fields being profoundly different from each other, they have both contributed to fully satisfying my professional needs. Whenever I could not bear museums and monuments anymore (in particular those who manage them), or ateliers of artists (interesting but rather annoying characters), I would turn to the mountains, with their solitude and vast spaces, to regenerate my body and, most of all, my soul. And, of course, the same thing happened in the opposite direction.

Then, one day, an assignment took me to Egypt, and I realised that here was a place that would allow me to fulfil all my professional aspirations. Eighteen years have passed since then. The project I am now working on deals with the displaying of multimedia contents on mobile devices for the exhibition “Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures”, which SC Exhibitions will launch in Munich on 1st April 2015.

What has happened over these past years?

Quite simply, we are making the future of photography, in a way which would have been impossible to imagine in 1997. The real subject of these brief reflections is not the evolution from analog to digital, which constitutes a long and rather pointless debate. It is rather how we see and will see in the future everything that is not actually in front us, and which someone else (once it would have been the photographer) is recounting to us through images, since the “subject” is not actually in front of our eyes, or may have been once before us but is no longer there or may even not exist anymore. The real change lies not in the medium, but in its management.

From being the language of the photographer, photography has now become, thanks to technology, a shared language that allows everyone to communicate through stills, “moving” images or live images, for example through Skype or Facetime. We see, through the eyes of others, where they are in that specific moment, or were a few seconds before. Photography has become social, the most social of all media. The immediacy of its language has become everyone’s heritage, it bounces from one device to another continuously. We communicate more through images than we do through words.

Are we all photographers then? Yes and no. We can compare this revolution to that of universal literacy. While in 1902, in a country such as Italy, 85% of the population was still illiterate, now everyone can read and write. But this does not mean that everyone has become a writer. The same goes for photography and its use, and this leads us to the question that may be of most interest for those reading this magazine: what is the future of images? Or better, what is the future of the perception of images?

By way of an answer, I offer a brief chronology of some works (and their applications) carried out in Egypt over the last years which perhaps provide some indication of where that future might lie:

2000 – First very high-resolution reconstructions of painted walls inside the tombs of Luxor and Saqqara created for scientific purposes.

2006 – Publication of the book “The Royal Tombs of Egypt”, containing impossible views, made up of entire walls reconstructed in a way which not even the human eye can see in real life, due to the spaces being too limited to be viewed in their entirety.

2007 – Publication of the book “King Tutankhamun”, containing the first ever digital photographic shots of the Treasure, as well as “layered” postproduction, i.e. a technique in which 180 photos are overlapped to reproduce accurately colours and surfaces. In addition to its use for scientific purposes (it is still nowadays the only existing high-resolution photographic record of the Treasure), this technique allows the reproduction of images never seen before. From this production several high-resolution prints have been created for exhibitions and museums.

2009 – The first 3D animations of the Treasure of Tutankhamun are created from high-resolution photographic images.

2009 – Publication of “A Secret Voyage”, a large-format photographic book, printed with the “New Dimension” innovative technique. The volume, printed in a limited edition of 750 books numbered and signed by the authors, is the largest photographic book on Ancient Egypt ever published.

2012 – The “Children’s Civilization and Creativity Center” opens in Cairo, for which we produce approximately 600 square metres of high-resolution photographs, using particular printing techniques with UV inks and modified nozzles in order to increase the resolution of images on forex.

2012 – In collaboration with Touchpress, we produce “The Pyramids”, an innovative iPad app that exploits to the full the potential of the iOS operating system and uses 3D photogrammetric models produced with creative images, i.e. with lighting applied during the actual photo-shoot and not only in post-production.

2014 – We produce digital contents on Ancient Egypt for mobile devices to be displayed through an internal browser.

And so here we are today, in the year of “Back to the Future Pt 2”. Although I do not have a DeLorean and have arrived here “on foot”, I do not feel in the last tired and this year’s projects are very challenging. Among them, there is the publication in May of a new large-format book, once again in a limited edition. We will also shortly launch the Ancient Egypt Live Twitter Stories, with dedicated photographs, and large images with projection mapping for events, as well as video portraits and new e-books.

Many people ask me if I miss the old magazines, signature books, black-and-white prints and having my hands in the chemicals, all within the protective warmth of the red light in the darkroom. No, I do not miss any of that at all. I miss only what I still have not done, what I still have not thought about.

A suggestion, to all those who love photography and those who work with it: just stay connected!


Sandro Vannini