Andrew Reed Weller: Parallax Correction

Andrew Reed Weller is a photographer originally from Cleveland, Ohio and now based in New York City. He is currently focused on printing from his backlog of images, loving people and cooking them tasty food, as well as taking care of an increasing number of plants. Andrew has traveled to 37 countries, with extended stays in Argentina, Thailand and Pakistan. At the moment he has no trips planned and his camera is gathering dust. You can read his interviews on Leica Camera’s blog here

In “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” Victor Hugo speculated that the printing press destroyed architecture. Such a displacement in the name of innovation and progress may also be observed in any number of other transitions: automobiles rendering horse-drawn carriages obsolete, the impact of television on cinema, or tablet computers replacing paper. The name of the chapter where Hugo puts forth his hypothesis, “This Will Kill That,” can apply to any of these collisions of modern versus traditional.

In the case of the press killing architecture, Hugo wrote, “… during the first six thousand years of the world, from the most immemorial pagoda of Hindustan to the cathedral of Cologne, architecture was the great handwriting of the human race.” He goes on to examine the religious structures created in Europe during the Middle Ages. These edifices, using details such as sculptures, paintings, and stained glass windows, served the purpose of aiding the Church in relaying stories from the Bible to a largely illiterate population. Whether through a carving of the bloody body of Christ or a fresco depicting Heaven’s ethereal beauty, the features found in churches were a method of communication, a way for those with means and power (the Church) to inculcate a belief, or in this case a whole religious dogma, into the masses.

With the advent of the Gutenberg’s invention and the spread of literacy, more average citizens were able to create and access information, religious or otherwise, and the printed word became the dominant registry of humanity over architecture. Such a change in the dissemination of information led to a shift in the power structure, as the two elements are highly related. No longer was it just the Church that spread its version of history, but now anyone who could write and produce some flyers had the opportunity to gain followers and bring about significant changes in society.

The same sort of paradigm shift is happening today, in the form of the information exchanges that comprise social media. The ease with which we can document events, create and distribute content, and formulate and share opinions is, in fact, defining our current history as it unfolds. From Twitter’s effect on the Arab Spring to Edward Snowden’s leaks, it is clear that information and power are increasingly interchangeable.

Photography is, and has been since its inception, a significant portion of the content channeled into our own modern registry of humanity. The medium’s universal accessibility, claim to veracity, and communication efficacy make it more potent than a text in one language or a painting that can only exist in one place. And with its worldwide reach, enabled no longer by just the established media but now by any number of free and democratic avenues, photography is gaining yet more power to affect our lives.

The professional photography community, however, is hardly ecstatic over some of these new tools and venues for images. Just as digital photography took away the exclusivity of the photographer as practitioner of a difficult craft, now the internet has undermined the photojournalist as globetrotting interpreter of history. But as photojournalists mourn the loss of assignments, so too do a swath of people gain the ability to document their own history, to share their genuine experience, and to shout in whatever voice they choose. From any journalistic or power-based perspective, the photos I present here, shot over two years ago on film with an M4-P made in 1981, have already lost in their struggle to be valid. They depict nothing more than faceless, anonymous people and timeworn scenery that might appeal to a Western audience for their relative exoticism. But no story is conveyed apart from my own. As such, these images are just the travel log of a transient, detached foreigner making his way through Sri Lanka and India.

What can be posited while looking at these photos is that any one of the subjects found within them, armed only with a secondhand Nokia instead of a precision-crafted German instrument, now has the ability to tell his or her own story in a manner that I and perhaps no outside photographer could ever manage. Thus the power inherently found in image-making and image-sharing no longer lies solely with the professionals, but with anyone in possession of a simple, nearly omnipresent tool, and the will to click “post.” The question now becomes, will the internet-enabled smartphone kill traditional photography just as Hugo argued the press had done to architecture? There are no clear answers at the moment, as this transformation is still being played out month by month. I, for one, am trying to accept this uncertainty and to keep doing what I enjoy: making images of things around me and, sometimes at least, sharing them.

– Andrew Reed Weller

More of Andrew’s work can be seen at and on Instagram.

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  • Image 10 is in a class of its own compared to the other images. What a wonderful colour photograph! The light was just right for that frame. Well done.

  • Thanks for posting an interesting and thought-provoking text.

    The anwer to the last question, though, is clear in my view: it is a resounding no. Photography is not dead.

    The democratisation and popularisation that is happening is similar to that which has happened to almost any industry or human endeavour in the past. Long ago, kings and rulers built fortresses, castles and palaces. As time passed, also other people were given the opportunity to build their own dwellings, first the aristocracy, then others. These days, many have the choice to build an architect-designed house. The same happened to the automobile. Initially the luxury show-off item of the wealthy, it gradually became the readily available necessity of almost anyone. One can continue this comparison. A few decades ago only those with considerable amounts of money could afford a home cinema. However, these days it’s exceptionally inexpensive to enjoy films in the rich and immersive way that surround sound and good imagery allows. This is a result of the fact that the audio-video industry is going digital, which entails miniaturisation and cheapification of products. This simple fact – the digitalisation – has resulted in far-reaching changes to society, as is well known, and it is what is currently reshaping photography. But it won’t kill photography. It will just allow this particular creative endeavour of humanity to continue developing in more, and different, ways than before. It will lead a different more varied life than in the past.

    I recall how Erich Salomon’s photographic work was simplified when he could ditch large format cameras for the pocketable Leica. This resulted in him not only being able to take many more photos than he previously had been able to because one roll was so much smaller than the equivalent number of plates would be, which he had had to lug around. It also allowed him to shoot unhindered and unobserved in available-light surroundings. In other words, it freed him. This is what is happening today. Virtually anyone is able to shoot whatever and wherever. Should we stop that development? Personally I think no. History shows that it’s usually futile to do so. The better path to take is to adapt. After all, the only constant is change. One can think of how Kodak’s inflexible and myopic management put the company in serious difficulties, when a more nimble and willing-to-adapt management let its main competitor Fuji flourish in the dawn of the digital photography era. In the same way, newspapers will have to rethink how they use photography. Staff photographers will become an entirely extinct breed, some have predicted. That may happen. Then again, the fact that staff photographers are being laid off may have the opposite effect, with newspapers realising that the quality of photography that they get by crowd sourcing does not match the other content of their publications. In all likelihood, a balance will be found somewhere.

    As an all-film photographer, this is how I see it. I have no interest in going digital, due to how boring and soulless it looks, but I do understand the reasons why many have left film behind during the last decade. Still, to continue on the balance theme, film is going comparably strong these days, with a loyal following that keeps attracting formerly digital photographers who feel unfulfilled by digital.

    Lastly, I believe that Hugo was wrong to suggest that the printing press killed architecture, as compelling as the argument is which he tried to build (pun intended because why not). Architecture continues to be one of the most tangible and simply massive forms of human marks on this planet, regardless of whether information is shared and consumed over tablets, iphones and home cinema systems.

  • Really enjoyed every pictures. Good Composition and attention grabbing images. Feeling like i am there in the place.

  • Thank you Tobias…that is a favorite of mine as well. I think of it as “Alex Webb b-roll” – something that would end up in his trash but is a damn good frame for me 🙂

    And cheers, Gary. Thanks for looking and reading!

  • Not usually one to take a look at color images, this set of color images are in a class all their own. The compositions are what I find to be absolutely stunning. I can look past the color and see the graphic layout of the shots. “Parallax Correction” is an excellent title for this series.

  • I like the irony in the photo of the girl on the bus! It’s an interesting time for photographers, many options available, probably too many, sometimes confusing. Times change, technology changes but the need of a good eye and good control of the tool, whatever it is analog or digital still is very important.

  • Good photographs do not age.
    They simply are. If everything was deadlines, we would see very lil quality.
    These are stunning. The perspective, the design and the quality.
    On your portfolio website a really sharp portrait.
    Will watch on tumblr.
    Oh! what film and lenses.

  • I agree with Jason Gold: Don’t be so quick to consign photography or photo journalism to the ash heap of history. Just because everyone has an I Phone doesn’t make everyone Irving Penn. Changes in technology have transformed the arts and societies. But somehow, through the ages, these transformations have not rendered the artist obsolete nor have they extinguished the belief that some criteria, some qualities distinguish rendered art from raw experience.

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