Magazine Article


Democracy in Photography: America 24-7 Brings Digital Photography Age to the Masses

Democracy in Photography
America 24-7 Brings Digital Photography Age to the Masses

by Diane Berkenfeld

Creators David E. Cohen and Rick Smolan of the "Day in the Life..." series of photo books set out to help Americans document their lives in the course of a week with a number of goals in mind. According to Cohen, the most important statement that America 24-7 makes is "declaring digital photography has arrived."

"The joy of taking technology and putting it to creative and artistic use is what America 24-7 is all about," he explained.

Perhaps the next Pulitzer prize winning photographer will be discovered through the event, which Cohen and Smolan opened up to the public. "It's a great participatory event," Cohen said. "It's leveling the playing field, since not just a handful of pros will be shooting, but anyone."

Cohen and Smolan certainly timed America 24-7 right, digital photography has finally reached ubiquity-25 million American families now own a digital camera. Photo Marketing Association projections have digital camera sales outnumbering film camera sales for the first time this year.

Cohen and Smolan brought their idea to a number of publishers before they found one-Dorling Kindersley (DK)-willing to take on the enormity of simultaneously publishing 52 books of photographs in addition to the one national volume. According to Cohen, the 52 state books will be a product of mass customized regional publishing. The logistics in printing, and distributing 52 volumes, all ready on the same day are incredible. It's something Cohen says couldn't have been done three years ago. Only through the advancements in technology and the advent of digital photography has America 24-7 been feasible. When Cohen and Smolan worked on "A Day in the Life of America" in 1986, 200 photographers shot film and the process was cumbersome. For America 24-7, over 100,000 photographers shot digitally with an infrastructure designed specifically around digital imaging created to make it work.

America 24-7 didn't just culminate when the week of shooting was over either. One of the exciting aspects for those who participated in the event is that everyone, whether pro or amateur, will have their images "published" on the project's personalized home page for friends and family to see.

A coalition of imaging companies has banded around America 24-7 to provide support for the thousands of photographers and images that will be produced. Almost all of the sponsors of the event are a part of the digital imaging chain. An extensive infrastructure was needed for the thousands of images to be submitted through the Internet. Snapfish handled uploading of images from the amateur participants, and Webwear set up an ftp site on the pro end.

Olympus donated the use of 1,000 digital cameras for the participating professionals to use. Mark Gumz, president and COO of Olympus, explained his company's commitment to digital, "We hope to empower thousands of Americans to take part in the digital revolution by participating in America 24-7. Introducing Americans from coast-to-coast to the thrill, excitement and possibilities of digital photography is what this project is all about."

Sponsors include Lexar Media, Epson America, Adobe, Apple Computer, Camera Bits, Preclick!, Filemaker, and a host of others.

"Its certainly going to be an interesting time capsule," said Mark Greenberg, one of the contracted photographers and a proponent of digital photography. "By bringing in the public, you're going to get a better sense of America. People will be bearing their lives through their photographs."

"America 24-7 is designed to be a landmark series in documentary photography and the watershed event of the new digital photography age," commented Rick Smolan. America 24-7 gives the people a chance to show the world what Americans are all about; photographed by the people for the people, it is a true democracy of photographs.

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