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The Alchemists: Photographer Blake Jorgenson talks about the new era of digital photography

Blake Jorgenson, longtime photographer for Backcountry Magazine, recently joined forces with videographer Leigh Powis of Second Ave. Films to create a documentary discussing the role of photography in the digital age. In The Alchemists, Jorgenson and Powis speak to the positive impacts of digital connectivity on the world of photography, while using the Whistler, B.C. backdrop to tell a parallel story of how unplugging from time to time is a necessary ingredient to success in the modern visual media age. We caught up with Jorgenson to learn more about what he thinks about modern photography and its online community. Here is what he had to say in his own words.

The Alchemists from Second Ave. Films on Vimeo.

For me, photography is designed to be an inspirational motivator. As a medium, I think it has quickly become—just through technological advancements and people’s access to social media on their phones—the main platform for visual communication worldwide. There has been this global explosion where documenting an adventure has become part of the adventure itself. You want to have an amazing experience with your friends but you also want to show it and share it with people in a positive way.

For most of the 20th century, being a photographer was a mystic, romantic art and identity. But through digital technology, everyone is able to be a photographer and it has become a mainstream platform for communication. The way people can share and self-publish content has advanced this movement as well, because before the internet came around, to get published required quite a bit of effort. You needed to have the desire to go capture your adventures or capture your passions, your vision, but it was also difficult to share. And now it’s super easy—visual communication is rapidly becoming maybe the biggest language in the world.

But because we have all this digital connection and we essentially all have our own digital identities that we want to express, it is more and more important to disconnect, push that away and stay true to your passions apart from the digital world.

Creativity and expressing ourselves are really important parts of being human. Before the digital age, photography required motivation to step in to that creative world, but now we have shattered these barriers, allowing everyone to be a lot more creative and expressive. It is good to embrace it, but it’s also important to navigate it correctly and appropriately.

It is not about popularity; it is about connection. It doesn’t matter how many people are paying attention to the images that you capture, it’s that you’ve made a connection with someone else. Whether you have ten Instagram followers or one million, what’s important is creating a personal connection with your community. The numbers don’t really matter; the part that matters is the human interaction.

There isn’t this mysterious barrier of publishing your work to have it seen. You can freely publish it, and people can freely watch it, and that is the coolest part, regardless of how many people get to see it. That’s what I tried to speak to in the Alchemist.

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