Huffpo has a large (224 pictures so far), apparently user-generated set of pictures of the "supermoon." The shot above was taken by someone named Lillian in central Florida, and has a cheerfully horrendous pun as a title: "Moon Over My-Mami." (Ouch.)
As I looked through these pictures I was musing that, collectively, this set shows generically "what photographs look like today"—all kinds of photographs by all kinds of photographers using a jumble of characteristic equipment. Every age has its generic "look," its base technique, its demotic technical signature. This set, more or less, is a pretty good demonstration of ours, now.
ADDENDUM: I guess the second paragraph above is a bit too Delphic to be useful. All I mean is that if you first set aside the outliers—the distinctive artists, the master craftsmen and -women, those who deliberately try to be different or who mimic the styles of other time periods, and so forth—and then look at hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of pictures from any particular era, certain commonalities will start to emerge and become apparent. It's not just the subject matter, the hair and clothing styles, the look of the building and the automobiles. It's also that every era has certain types of equipment and materials that are most readily available to the majority of the people, and that equipment will be good for some things, not so good for others, and just overall have a distinctive "look" that's characteristic of it. A lot of this has to do with the characteristic way those materials fail—for instance, in the supermoon set you see a lot of blown highlights, purple fringing, pixelation, and so forth. These "failures" are typical of our equipment and materials now—you'd never have seen them on pictures of fifty or a hundred years ago. But you'd see other failures on those pictures that might be uncommon now.
Then there's the issue of fashion—how people expect pictures to look, the "archetype" they're consciously or even unconsciously trying to mimic.
There are social conventions, which tend to be particularly invisible to people in their own era. For instance, we now fully expect people to give a big on-demand smile when having their pictures taken. It looks utterly natural to us. But if an average person from, say, 1890 could look at a bunch of typical pictures from now, he or she might find all the grinning utterly bizarre. People just didn't do that as much then. Well, except Teddy Roosevelt.
Socially acceptable portrait expressions, 1890s and 2010s. (The one on the right is by Colorado photographer Jason Noffsinger. On the left, unknown.)
There are even economic issues to consider. When photography was expensive, each exposure had to "tell"—you waited to take a picture until you had something to take a picture of. Now, especially, that imperative has been subsumed in the ease and absence of cost of each exposure.
In any event, all I'm saying is that as you look at huge amounts of pictures, gradually a sort of semi-intentional, real-world, democratic mean reveals itself. Sorry if this explanation is too far to go for too little, but since people were asking what I meant....
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by pxpaulx: "Seems to me about 5% of the 'photographers' went out and said to themselves, I'm going to go out and compose a nice photo with the supermoon in the background. Another 5% said to themselves, I'm going to go out, take a technically accurate photo of the supermoon, another technically accurate photo of something interesting, and digitally merge the two. The remaining 90% said to themselves, I heard there is a supermoon tonight, so I'm going to take whatever appliance I have that also has a camera attached to it and press a button! In that respect, perhaps it is truly a representation of the photographic world of today."
Featured Comment by Paul Glover: "The 'look' of the era isn't the first thing which I thought of reading this. Instead I thought of how willing people today are to give their photos away for nothing but 'exposure,' even those few percent who put in some reasonable effort to make it look good."