Photography is ever changing. In this issue, we would like to look at photographic trends from the perspective of social science, asking the question, what themes might be trending currently and why they emerge.
A trend is defined as a tendency, a development with high significance (see Buck et al. 1998, 55), which is characterized by “socio-cultural and aesthetic-cognitive dimensions of impact” (Buck 1998, 58). Trends emerge in and refer to certain contexts; and while emerging they transgress boundaries of contexts (see Liebl 2000, 63). Trends which usually “develop from the inside” (Horx 2011, 8), are not forced upon a group, a generation or the entire society, but generate self-reinforcing tendencies. Why is it important to look at trends? Els Dragt finds a simple answer: “We are all futurists. We all try to think and plan ahead in some way or another… This tendency of curiosity about the future, trying to anticipate it, is not a specific symptom of current modern times. For centuries, there has been a constant search for ways to get a hold of uncertain futures. From the ancient Greeks visiting the oracle of Delphi, to current computer based algorithms trying to model and predict the future. Trend research is about detecting signs of change happening right now and the directions these indicate to possible futures” (2017, 13).
As already mentioned, most trends have various dimensions, among them economical aspects, but also cultural and psychological ones. Often, it is hard to define which was first—was it a certain psychological motif within society which was experienced or perceived by a smart product developer? Or did the industry come up with a new product which created its own market and became a trend? Was it a role model or did a role model just pick up what was trending already? In any case, psychological motifs and their relation to the zeitgeist play an important role.
One example for a very prominent trend in current photography is instant photography. In 2016, digitaltrends.com posted an article with the headline: “Fujifilm’s Instax analogue camera is outselling its digital devices by nearly 4 times”, having sold 5 million of its instant cameras in the fiscal year. Why is it instant photography which underwent a revival during the last years, thus in a time, in which heavy retouching is accessible even for amateurs who can use numerous cell phone apps to “improve” their pictures? A longing for authenticity comes to mind, even though the instant photographs’ authenticity might be very questionable (see Jerrentrup 2016, 76ff.). Further, there are hybrid camera models coming up which allow a selection and retouching of the pictures before the “instant” printing process starts. The need for immediacy and authenticity is opposed to the wish for perfection, for keeping up appearances of a beautiful life.
But there are also less technical, more content-related trends, such as the arrogant look on models’ faces, which on first sight does not convey a likable impression. Blur, as discussed in Martin Schuster’s article, can also be seen as related to trends—it communicates an imperfection and, at the same time, an artistic aspect. Nostalgia is another topic trending. Katharina Stenger and Olivier Rieter look at it in the scene of retro modeling, an anachronist phenomenon, just as Bastian Reichardt’s philosophical discussion of analogue photography. In this issue, people from various disciplines, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and historiography have their say as start for our interdisciplinary magazine.
Buck, Alex, Herrman, Christoph und Dirk Lubkowitz (1998): Handbuch Trendmanagement. Innovation und Ästhetik als Grundlage unternehmerischer Erfolge. Frankfurt am Main.
Dragt, Els (2017): How to research trends. Move beyond trend watching to kickstart innovation. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers
Horx, Matthias (2011): Das Megatrend Prinzip. Wie die Welt von morgen entsteht. München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt.
Jerrentrup, Maja Tabea (2018): Therapie vor der Kamera? Zum Potential inszenierter Menschenfotografie. Münster: Waxmann
Liebl, Franz (2000): Der Schock des Neuen. Entstehung und Management von Issues und Trends. München