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Saturday, 13 October 2012


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Imagine every 5000 pictures you find an image that leads you to a portfolio you wanna write a blog post about...

Face it, you're doomed. :))

I'm gonna need an estimate for the ADD-enabled. As evidenced by me writing this comment in the middle of trying to make the final cut and ordering for a folio project. Yeah.

But if you had twelve editors, you'd never fall behind, and you'd be able to schedule in toilet breaks!

I wonder (and I have no particular opinion on this) whether the ubiquity of photographs, many of them quite good, on large easy-to-view sites which cost the viewer nothing...I wonder if this is devaluing photographs in general?

I've heard more mind boggling data sizes recently. E.g. CERN creates a Petabyte of data per second. For those of us working on the so-called "big data" fields, this is an opportunity. But the fact remains that no longer can we (as collective humans) keep track of the data we are creating. Sooner or later we will be forced to have our computers pick which pictures are more beautiful and worthy of our attention to look at.

John Camp: I wonder if this is devaluing photographs in general?

No, but it is encouraging an idea of public value, which depends on immediate strikingness - or some other immediate-recognition factor. But that's peripheral; a spin-off.

Most pictures always have been of limited interest, except as a private matter for specific people. And people may be putting their own photos up on Flickr as a means of storage and access for themselves and their family - they may be private-in-public, but still none of our business, like the clothes hung out on someone's washing-line to dry.

Flickr gives us the voyeuristic ability to find out more about what other people find interesting to photograph. The photo itself does not need to be interesting in isolation. It's the 21st century equivalent of loitering at the local store watching strangers' enprints dropping out of the photo processing machine. On Flickr there can be more context given, but there is seldom any open biographical information, or truly candid comment about the photos themselves. Nor should there be - it's not an exhibit, or a gallery.

Ephemera don't need to supply any reliable meaning themselves; their very emptiness or disconnection from us, leaves us more free to bring (or not bring) our own interest and imagination to them readymade.

"I wonder (and I have no particular opinion on this) whether the ubiquity of photographs, many of them quite good, on large easy-to-view sites which cost the viewer nothing...I wonder if this is devaluing photographs in general?"

Define "value" ;)

I think the role of photography in modern popular culture is fascinating. True, democracy is not an arbiter of ultimate quality - the Beatles are not "better" than Bach. However access (in this case to cheap recordings) brought many people to Bach from a much wider spectrum of society, both before and after the Beatles came and went.

Accessibility serves both functions.

What is interesting is that mass participation has shown how many "regular folk" can produce some really nice images. If anything the "technical average" has moved upwards a few notches. It's also made serious photography exhibitions (at least in London) more prevalent and more popular.

However the arts have always separated popular culture from the "establishment". A populist voting system will never identify the exceptional talents, the pioneers. There are a few photo sites emerging which do specialise in more overtly progressive styles but it takes time to establish the trends and ideas that have traction.

As far as the establishment is concerned, I am not sure that "visual arts" are any longer separated generically. Artists use multiple mediums, including photography, digital graphics and physical installations, to produce "art".

@John Camp:

I have wondered the same thing. Were it not for the fact that good photos printed well still far outclass the same photos online, who would want to spend big bucks buying books or prints, or spend time and money going to an exhibition?

From personal observation though, it seems that photography books are selling very well nowadays because of the increased interest in photography. A few years ago, I could go into the photography section in large Tokyo bookstores on weekends, and see only a few middle-age and older men. Now there are men and women of all ages, and except for a minority---usually guys---they aren't looking at the latest camera porn in Asahi Camera, but at real photo books.

(Though some---not meaning John---seem to love to diss Flickr and simliar sites and their users, there are many excellent photos and photographers on them you just have to search a little. I'd suggest not trying to sift through the 2,024 per minute, though.)

I'm pretty sure that most Flickr users would say that other people are out of hand and should be more selective before uploading.

Not them, of course. Their pictures are gems! Each and every one on the SD card...

So Mike, what's your flickr account?

Devalued only if using a scarcity model. Artificially limiting availability keeps access low and the price high; this has nothing to do with aesthetic value. Sources for easily viewing good photographs simply open up the opportunity to publish and see, while encouraging creative energy.

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”
- Lewis Carroll


Photography in general has been devalued considerably *more* due to the proliferation of photos. But photography in general has never been highly valued by the general public anyway.

Wasn't it Ted Orland who said that once your friends and relatives recognize that your photography is truly Art they will then ask you to photograph their wedding?

And, as you probably know, flickr is a donkey compared to facebook, where, according to this CNN article:


people upload 200 million images a day.

A year or so ago it was not uncommon to see something closer to 5 or 6k of images a minute. I'm guessing that more and more of the "Chet's party photos" end up on facebook.

I love flickr. It brought me people like Jon Siegel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonsiegel/) and Ming Thein (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mingthein/) and Sannah Kvist (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sannah/).

I could have found them elsewhere but I found them just by poking around flickr.

Most photographs these days share the same relationship with good photography as painting on houses does with paintings in an art gallery; the former are utilitarian, designed to serve a specific purpose for the owner, and occasionally look nice. But the fact that everyone is painting their houses doesn't really affect the worth of the paintings in the gallery.

It just brings me back to: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/09/quote-.html

That would indicate that the # of images is growing exponentially, and at 10x the rate of the population (30% growth in world pop between '90 and '10 ~ 1.5%/yr).

Assuming that we haven't improved that much in taking better pictures, and since there aren't really any new subjects to photograph (the Grand Canyon isn't really changing that much; there's still only one sunset/sunrise per day, and the population is growing slower than the image repository), it means that we get massive duplication/variations of the same subject all over again.

So in a way, there's no reason to sift to those 2,000 images, as the chance that you will find something new and exciting is unlikely to be much higher than it was before. There is just a lot more noise in the system, for about the same amount of signal.

The take away is that while this provides lots of quality entertainment for the world population, it makes it a lot harder for those who may in fact produce something noteworthy to stand out.

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