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Sunday, 14 October 2012


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Szarkowski's statement does not in any way suggest that photographs are "interchangeable". Even if it is true that there are more photographs in the world than bricks, this does not imply that photographs are analogous to bricks or as similar to each other as one brick is to another.

that was the very question on two very different exhibitions I attended some time ago: at the Sputnik Gallery in Moscow, and at the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona.

However, the most surprising discovery is that of the egiptian masks. Never heard of them. Never thought I will see a 4000 year old Picasso, or a italian reinassance portrait that just happen to be in ancient egipt.

How bloody contemporary is that portrait? [pardon my cursing, but IT IS bloody contemporary]. With one single sweep, we do get part of Julian Schnabel, part of Picasso [those blistering eyes, god allmighty], part of Jasper Jones.

All together at once.

An interesting reading, so many ideas in these portraits and so many stories...

I suspect that an increasing percentage of the photos today are of cats, or are badly lit Instagram photos of people's meals.

I had the pleasure of seeing an exhibition of the mummy portraits at the British Museum. They were fascinating, if a little unsettling as they were presented with their "mummies". They had also reconstructed a head using one of the preserved skulls and found that portrait was reasonably representative. If I remember the exhibition texts correctly the settlement where they were found was a mixed one; Greek, Roman and Egyptian and the portraits were a result of the mixed and blended cultures
Thanks for the reminder and I enjoyed the article

The vast majority of photographs made now are of parking lots, back entrances, anything one might point a surveillance camera at, I think. Because those things take 30 pictures a second, and they run all the time.

I happened to be at London when the mummy portraits were exhibited and it was a life-changing experience. I was even bewitched by a particular woman portrait and three times had to come back to it -to her?- and see it, not being able to leave. I treasure the exhibition catalogue, and many times muse on that people posing for the portraits knowing they were dying; many of them poignantly show the effects of the malady that killed the poser, such as severe weight losses or deep red bags under the eyes. Very sad indeed.

While I hate to be contrary (no I don't!), I'm not convinced that the assertion about photographs and bricks is correct, even today.

Most estimates of the number of photos taken each year comes out somewhere near (but typically a bit below) one trillion, 10^12. As this number is growing exponentially, to get a total number of all photographs ever taken we can focus on recent years, and something in the range 5-10 trillion would probably cover it. However, we don't retain all our shots. I dump about 50%. I don't know how typical this is, but let's use it as an estimating basis. So this gives use a number of "existing photographs" of a few trillion.

Now bricks. This is more tricky. I estimate the number of bricks in a typical British family home at around 15-20,000. That provides shelter for an average 4-5 people, but we also spend time in other brick buildings (work, hotels, communal buildings), so let's say 10,000 bricks per person in a "brick rich" environment like the UK.

But not everyone lives in a "brick rich" environment: for all sorts of economic, environmental and cultural reasons many buildings use other materials. So let's assume that 10% of the world's buildings are brick.

10,000 (bricks per person) x 10% & 7 x 10^9 (people) = 7 x 10^12 bricks. That's still a couple of times greater than my estimate of the number of photos...

Now obviously as the numbers are (surprisingly) so similar and the number of photos is growing exponentially, the roles will soon be reversed. But I don't think it was true in 1976.

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