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Thursday, 17 March 2016


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I always had this "discussion" with graphic designers(newspaper layout). My view, use one photo and use it big, pick it carefully. Their go to method, we've got 10 usable photos, I bet I can get them all in this 3/4 page area. Sadly this shoot more show less philosophy is only known to photographers.

Well maybe it's time to stop thinking of photographs only in terms of their usefulness as stand-in for actual objects, or as strictly works of art.

Every September, another BFA student discovers that more or less every picture of the Eiffel tower is identical, and that some MFA artist has already beat him to the punch by making an Alphonse Bertillon-inspired composite of 10,000 such snapshots from Flickr. The resultant fuzziness gives him vertigo, and he drowns his sorrow crying over Rosalind Krauss's "Notes on the index" (part 1 only; nobody reads part 2).

When you or I take our boring picture of the Eiffel tower, we imbue it with much more meaning than just "this is the Eiffel tower" and "I was there." There's a reason why we pull this particular picture of the Eiffel tower whenever the topic of it, or of France, or of your recent trip to France, or whatever else can meaningfully connect to it.

Borgesian? Pierre Ménard's re-writing the Quixote all over again? Definitely. Our national poet, Gilles Vigneault used to say "Tout a été dit, mais pas par moi" (everything has been said, but not by me) because the act of saying, of photographing and showing, is as much important as the mere denotative content of what is said or (ugh!) "captured."

What's the purpose of eating yet another peanut butter toast this morning? After all, you're just like 6,983,182 Americans who did so today, and you are not original. Is it really so important for you to be original?

I recommend Geoffrey Batchen's "Snapshots" (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17540760802284398?journalCode=rpho20#.VurQb8eM3iQ if you have an academic connection) to think about the problem of writing a history of the snapshots, of boring pictures.

We are torn between the poles of art history (every photograph a work of art) and ethnography (every photograph a mere document) when we are trying to apprehend the purpose and practice of vernacular photography.

I say there is a key in the meaning that can be connoted by a photograph, and also in the meaning that is strictly contextual, contingently attached to a given photographs, and that can be utterly lost to the winds when the photo circulates.

Good point.

I am old enough (69) to have spent my working photographer life shooting film. When I shot for pleasure I would bring three rolls of TX 36 and shoot oil they were gone. Often I never finished all 105 shots. (I shot 35 picture per roll so they fit on a contact sheet, 7 rows of 5.) Now that I shoot digital, and have been for 20 years, I find that I still sort of turn off after 100-120 shots. I don't mind this, but it always makes me smile when I see how many pictures I shot once I'm home.

Not sure that Stephen Shore would agree with you - he's taken to showing a picture a day on Instagram. Pictures that are always made within the past week of their posting - https://www.instagram.com/stephen.shore/?hl=en

He is also involved with documentum.tv which obviously not interested in the of less is more - https://www.instagram.com/documentum.tv/

BTW, I have coined a phrase, discursive promiscuity (if you google the phrase, 5 of the first 6 returns are for my blog), which I use to describe my voluminous and aimlessly moving from one referent to another picture making activity.

Like Shore, I publish on average 5-7 recently made pictures a week. Although, I have over 20 POD picture books wherein I conform to the less is more axiom.

Of course I meant I would shoot til they were gone. Curse you spellcheck.

Remember the old pro shooter's adage: "Film is the cheapest thing in your budget"?Actually in the film days I used to make more exposures than I do now. Then, if I had any doubt about exposure, framing or anything else, I would shoot several "versions" to have a good chance of getting what I wanted. Now I have instant feedback, which cuts the number of exposures way down. Also, if I had some shots in the middle of a 36exp roll that I wanted to see, I would shoot whatever to finish the roll so it couild be processed. Not an issue any more. I still don't print a lot of images, although that too is much simpler. Are my photos any better?? Damn if I know.

How did the term capture/s come in to common useage? It is truly ugly. We take photographs dammit.

With all the new photographs to look at every day, why should I look at any one more than once? I might miss a better one.

So many pictures, so little time.

I think how and why one shoots all those frames matters, too. Digital, while making shooting more frames less effortful, also allows it to be less skillful, less conscious, less concientious. Heating frozen dinners in a microwave won't teach you much about cooking.

It's a different story if we're talking about getting to "meh". I'm sure digital has been fantastic at helping more people attain basic competence, and far more quickly.

Maybe what I'm saying is: what if all those photos being uploaded is only 1% of what's being taken?

Neither here nor there, but, technically, someone watching a movie that's 100 minutes long is being shown around 144,000-180,000 photographs. An hour of TV, around 100,000. The number of photographs contained in the movies and shows and channels that this person will never watch is simply incomprehensible.

Dear Mike,

"What else are they taking all those captures for, anyway?"

For exactly the same reason that most photographers have made most photographs, for at least 120 years.

To preserve memories.

(I just came up with that. Might make a catchy advert slogan?)

For the past third of a century at least (I don't have hard data before that), most means something over 99%.

Exhorting those folks, who are the "tsunami" to edit more ruthlessly is about as much on point as telling someone who keeps a daily journal that they should hone their writing and editing skills.

Now, I do agree that with such a huge number of photographs available for viewing (and a huge number of good ones), editing with brutal ruthlessness is far more important IF your goal is to be "recognized." Which it is for some of us, a miniscule fraction. For the rest it is so far from the point that it isn't even on the same planet.

(To repeat something I've said so often before, photography is not about, or is it owned, by the 0.1-percenters.)

pax / Ctein

There have been many recent negative comments on the sheer volume of images released (and posted) by the digital revolutionists. My own modest contribution in 2014 invoked the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Years ago I remember reading that National Geographic photographers shot an average of many hundreds of rolls of film on a single assignment. That's thousands of frames for maybe a dozen printed pictures. I thought that was a bit ridiculous. I thought that if a professional photographer couldn't get a good shot in a dozen or so tries, he wasn't very good. I'm still inclined to that view. When you see well, getting the one good shot shouldn't be hard. Says someone who's never been a pro :-)

OK, so I definitely have something to say about this!
First of all, most people who are posting oodles of pix are happy snappers. They snap away and are happy doing so. It's almost not about photography at all, the medium---and everything associated with it by "practitioners"-- is just incidental.
So, that leaves the rest of us, meaning people who care enough to think about it and visit this fine and thought provoking website.
As someone who used to shoot film, and sheet film at that, I certainly understand taking great care for each shot. You had to. Even shooting 120 required taking care, at least for me. With digital I can shoot with abandon, and am glad of it. Because now I am free not only to experiment, but also to begin engaging with (photographic)composition in a way I couldn't before (I come from a painting background and am a painter who just also happens to do photography)---let's try moving to the right just a hair....hmmmm, back over left a bit more, more up, more down, back, forward, & etc. For me it's led to a fantastic, wonderful meditation on composition that's been going on for ten years now, this year. I have learned a lot, from the gear I truly needed to what's actually happening with the work. It's been just great. And I've got a ton of work, "keepers", to show for it. Now, to print these things. That's coming, too, and I like digital printing better than the old way---because it's ink!

What else are they taking all those captures for, anyway?

"I don't like work - no man does - but I like what is in the work - the chance to find yourself. Your own reality - for yourself, not for others - what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means."

Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness

So much truth and and good guidance, Mike.
Nothing kills an attention span faster than being shown too many similar photos or ones that fall short. This is also true when looking at one's own photos. A heavy workload of too many shots taken can dull what needs to be sharp: careful editing.
Finding a reasonable number of shots to take can be helped by remembering and avoiding one's misses instead of chasing the hits.
At the same time, while the spare shooting style is romanticized, you have to get it in the can in order to use or reject.
Did I just contradict myself? Of course I did; I'm a photographer. Generally, I try to avoid overshooting as much as the subject and the ability to reshoot allow.
Whether I shoot a little or a lot, I'm going to show the fewest that I can. I don't want to bore anyone.

Well, not everyone is shooting more. I entered into the world of digital in the mid 2000's. with a god 35 years as a working pro in my pocket. In the last 15 or so years of film, I shot mostly with a Hasselblad. I owned only two A12 backs. I was frequently able to shoot an entire assignment on one roll of film, shoots that would have taken others two or three rolls. I carried this discipline into digital. I own several digital cameras that have never had the shutter release set to continuous. I consider myself to be continuing the discipline I developed as a film photographer into digital. This requires me to think about what I'm shooting, and not spraying and praying. It also saves me a huge pain in editing thousands of shots into one or two. The only downside is that I prefer to divide my shots over more than one card, this comes from an early thought in digital, don't put more shots than you can afford to lose on one memory card. I assigned the figure 72 to that, roughly two rolls of film. The problem is that the average camera (and phone) owner wants their entire life on one card, much like their parents wanted their lives to be on that one shoebox in the attic. Therefore, the decline in availability of 4 and 8 gig cards is painful.

I've got 104 pictures in the galleries of my main site. That's about 7.4 pictures per year I've been active.
On the other hand, blogs are a great way to do something with the large numbers of pictures one takes. You can tell the story of the day's shoot with a selection of a dozen-ish pictures from that day, even if they don't all make the cut into your main portfolio. Reading down the months and years of your blog is then a story in itself with the photos making the story.

I agree with you. And I'm very far behind on my editing.

I will add, though, that there is another side to "all those captures". Not the ones taken by enthusiastic photographers who are exploiting digital to shoot more, but the volumes of snaphots taken by masses of people who don't consider themselves photographers. I think that most of these pictures are never intended to be long-lived. I think they're the illustrations that accompany texts and social media updates. And as such, they're promptly forgotten (by both the viewer and the shooter) shortly after they're viewed. They're visual small talk, and quantity over quality is the expectation.

This is my main use of my phone's camera. I'll occasionally take a snapshot with it with the intent of possibly saving it for memories, but don't go looking to take pictures unless I have a real camera. But I do find it an amazingly handy tool for taking pictures of things that I just want to share with someone ... rather than texting or telling them "hey, guess what I saw today", I show them.

Like I said, I don't think those photos are the subject of your post, but I think they probably constitute a big percentage of the astronomical numbers of photos taken each day.

I try to avoid looking at photos. I see too much. I throw away 99,95% of pictures I take.

My target is: to take/make pictures like no one has done before. To make the thing easier, I refine the idea to "as no one has done before that I remember". So avoiding seeing more photos makes it easier for me to do something unique.

To me taking photos is a creative process. I want to create something new. (I also shoot snapshots, but that is not photography as I see it). Last year I managed to create perhaps 50-60 photos (and a few hundred snapshots and 10000 to throw away).

I agree, show less. Or more specifically: be more selective. I do not need to show those 50 photos to anyone. I just create. I do not want to make anyone elses creativity more difficult by showing my pictures to them.

The people who take photos and post them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter do so to validate their existence. I was here. I ate this. Not like Barthes talks about death of a moment. They do it to celebrate life. That's why what they photograph is not important, what it makes you think about them is. I am on vacation, I eat wonderful food, I have fabulous dinners. They no longer believe in the truth of photographs. They understand all photos lie.

I have literally spent the last two years developing, redeveloping, retouching and printing 26 photos for the last two years as a platinum print.

Another well written post, Mike.
What's the Purpose of Taking More Photographs? It's all about sharing snapshots. I think that is what's overwhelming the internet pipelines. This couldn't be done just a few years ago. Internet, photo sites, camera phones.
It's a judgement call, I know, but 99.99% of these photos are not going to interest us, the seekers of "the photograph" that is art.
There may be a positive side to all this if it encourages the few to look more closely at photos and attempt to emulate the better ones and then move on to make better work.
But it is hard learning curve for all of us, I suspect, to thin the output and display only our best. It has certainly been a challenge for me. The excitement of the new overwhelms the rational sense of better. Or something like that.

"Well, no. If Walker Evans was a Gen-X'er today, he'd be shooting 200 "captures" with a high-MP FF camera every day and mentioning to friends how far behind he is on his editing. And admitting ruefully that he hardly ever gets prints made any more. Robert Frank, of course, would have put all 28,000 shots on Facebook and would spend his days fishing for Likes."

Easily my favourite paragraph from the internet this year! And is it just me, or does anybody else want to throw their computer out of the nearest window when they see the word 'capture' used in the context of photography?

I was just thinking a lot about this. I'm in the early stages of a review of the Fuji X-Pro2 and I've already shot 2600 pictures with it. I've marked about 22 of them as maybe -- not definitely, just maybe -- decent enough to publish with the review. Only one of them is really good. (This dubious percentage is not the camera's fault!) I went out walking with it the other day and in 2.5 hours, I shot 400 pictures. That's more than two pictures a minute.

Now doing a review is a bit of a production effort -- I'm slower and choosier when I shoot purely for myself. But not all that much choosier. I've been generally a fan of the way that digital lets you shoot freely with essentially no cost. I hardly pay any attention to exposure anymore, for example. I just shoot a 3-shot bracketed sequence of nearly everything. Almost any modern camera can rip that sequence off in less than half a second. But when I got home with my 400 pictures the other day, and only one of them was really good, it gave me pause. Of course, I'll never show the 399 bad ones -- shoot more and show less, as your pro acquaintance said. But still, I'm wondering what would have happened if I'd slowed the pace down to, say, a glacial one picture per minute. Maybe I would have got home with two good ones.

The vast majority of pictures taken today are done as an aid to conversation. People want to talk about what they ate or where they went or what they saw.

Having an image makes their communication more powerful.

These images are meant to be transient and do not require any artistic merit to achieve their purpose.

While the images are completely valid for their purpose, they have nothing to do with photography as traditionally understood.

It is certainly true that there are many more traditional style photographs taken today then in years past the numbers are much smaller than the numbers you quote.

I'm over 70 and have embraced the world of digital photography wholeheartedly since 1996. But coming from the analog film days, I still shoot economically. When I would go out with a 35mm camera in my film days, I'd have a roll in my camera and one in my pocket. I only shot one or two shots of anything. Like the soldier carrying an M-1 with an 8 round clip. You can't afford to empty your gun into just one enemy. You only have so many bullets. With digital, I was still that old creature of habit. I still shot one or two shots of anything, even with a memory card capable of recording 1200 shots. I never shot bursts. I'm the patient, fly on the wall kinda guy. Like Cartier-Bresson. I liked to find an interesting composition and then just wait for something to happen to make it interesting. But I still only would take one or two shots. Can't help it. I'm hopeless. But I have come back to film and recently purchased a used Leica M-6 with a 35mm Summicron lens. And I'm back to two rolls of film and taking one or two shots of anything. It works for me.

I think it's safe to say that we can agree there is a difference between images and photographs.

Many of the people who post on social media don't think of their pictures as photographs — it's just an image showing their friends the awesome tuna sandwich they had for lunch.

Those who post sharp images of fuzzy ideas, on photo forums, are not showing us photographs.

I've sifted through a lot of dross and am finding very few photographs, maybe your luck will be better than mine

Interesting commentary!
The proliferation of available recording
hardware has translated into so many recorded images that the "quality" aspect or even the unique aspect of any resultant picture has been lost.

My feeling that a recorded DIGITAL image exists only as a collection of electrons until actually printed.

With exposed film, the surface must be chemically altered to allow an image (called a negative) to appear.

Sort of one in the same. Big difference though. That digital image really does not exist in the flesh so to speak until printed, unlike the film based negative which any one of use can physically "feel".

Send the digital image to others on the electronic routing system (internet) however as noted, it is still when delivered just a bunch of electrons in a specific order.

Remove devices including portable telephones that may record a digital image and all the other devices that are not labelled "camera," and the ratio of images to actual printed pictures shall probably disappear.

I don't have need for a portable telephone! Carry a small point and shoot; yes digital, of low megapixel rating, which utilizes AA batteries. That's "my instant image of the moment recording device!"

Great article, I especially like the career updates for Walker Evans and Robert Frank. One of the things Barthes wrote about in Camera Lucidia is the idea of 'Punctum' - that is a photograph that jumps out at the viewer, connects deeply with you, gives you an emotional hit. These are rare and unpredictable images, and what works for you probably wont work for the majority. Is this why we make photos? Perhaps it also shows that you can only really edit for yourself.

I would suggest that the "pro" who told you "The only difference between a pro and an amateur ... was 'we shoot more and show less.' " was mistaken. Quantity has never equaled quality.

I think your article hits the mark like a guided missile, but there is a possible solution.

Firstly, the problem that isn't really a problem. The reason there are so many shared images is because of applications like Facebook. It's a vehicle to make visual diaries of one's every day life to share with friends and family. All that's changed is the sharing part.

My Uncle died and left several boxes in the attic full of typical small prints of family and friends. Art it was not, but interesting to the immediate family to see relatives we barely knew in their former years. No-one would consider putting it up for auction, but we made some prints and scanned some JPEGs to send to our far flung relatives.

Facebook is just a vehicle for exactly that kind of thing, but it has always existed. Most images on FB are only shared with friends, not published for general audiences, so the numbers are not really relevant.

So we can discount around 95% of the images posted on the Internet and focus on the few remaining millions on personal websites aimed at a general audience.

The single, significant image, to be studied and admired for itself, is still very much the province of the aspiring artist - and therefore only accounts for a fraction of even that output.

Like all art, it requires a receptive audience. That audience does not have to constitute a majority of the general public to be significant, but it does have to be able to find these images in the first place.

The internet is un-curated, which makes it difficult. At the same time, there is plenty of room for thousands of curatorial projects to suit different audiences.

I think you, and other TOP readers, are already performing that curatorial role by bringing images and photographers to our attention on a regular basis. All that's missing is the time to contemplate, discuss and study. That, sadly, is the nature of blogging.

But there is nothing to stop TOP launching a gallery of featured images for us to contemplate and talk about 'off-line' from the main blog-stream. Perhaps one that may - perhaps annually, constitute a really excellent book of contemporary photography and an opportunity for more print sales, with the artists sharing in the proceeds.

Work by new, undiscovered artists - filtered by the jaded but experienced eyes of TOP's readership under the guidance of its famous editor.

I reckon, as ideas go, it might work and I can't think of a better home to nurture it.

Nobody really examines the tsunami, and nobody expects anybody to try to do that. It's not like you're missing a trillion artworks. These photos are really moments meant to be shared by friends and a small subset of other people -- they're tweets, notes on the passing scene, trivia that even the shooter probably won't continue to look at. And sometimes, they're literally notes -- my wife takes photos of price tags with her iPhone to more easily remember what a piece of clothing costs, for comparison with other clothing. In the case of my wife, you might even question whether what she is doing is really even photography -- it's a digital representation of some writing, much closer to a written note than it is to what we have traditionally called a photograph.

Outside a particular moment and a particular set of people, these notes are essentially meaningless. What gives a photo importance as "art" is that the creator set out to make some kind of statement about something serious, and succeeded well enough to attract the attention of educated viewers.

Will the (near) future be an "app" that looks for good frames taken off continuous video, shot all day through a device (glasses?), at 4/8k with post shoot focus selection and after the fact composition (already possible), using the operators subject or style priorities?
Massive quantity, no effort other than the effort of just living life and purchasing the devices, allowing genuine, natural discovery.
The end of street photography as a craft and the end of the relevance of new photography (making anything older precious simply because it was harder).
Better hop to it, before it does not matter anymore.

That's not a problem, Mike.

Zillions of anonymous captures that survive in some wisps of cloud or swath of brane may be all that remains to document the existence of paleo earthlings and their times. Grist of the mill for recognition software of other intelligent beings curious enough to engage them. Not that that was the intention of the humans who uploaded them.

Broadcast video signals will of course have preceded us through deep space. As for the portfolios of still photographs by name photographers, our descendants will bring these with them when they embark on their inter-stellar journey to find a hospitable exo-planet. I can't imagine in what form these will be stored. But that would be the curation job for the ages!

I find that I don't get much accomplished on group excursions. I have to shut out the busy-ness of other photographers to hear myself think, or I want to dawdle around one object / scene longer than other people or otherwise go away from the group. I am a solitary photographer and an introvert.

Spray and pray is often good for certain subjects and techniques (eg, wildlife or sports action, macro of flowers moving in the breeze in low light, hand-held macro at slow shutter speed where the best-focused, no motion blur shot is somewhere in the middle of the burst of 6 or so) the goal being to pick one best shot, cull the rest.

Because digital exposures are "free", it is all too easy to shoot and then think - a bunch of "meh" shots preceding the one that you have constructed carefully because you activated your brain somewhere in the spray process. I am trying to just skip the excessive number of "meh" shots and start out thinking from the first shot, then work it a little more.

I seem to remember reading that the number of photographs in the world "before" digital was about 1 trillion. If that is true, or even close to true, I suggest that the "digital tsunami" is meaningless because no-one has ever seen more than a tiny fraction of existing photographs for many decades. If one can only see a certain number of photographs it doesn't matter if the number of unseen ones is one million or a thousand millions.

All I know is if I go out photographing somewhere new I take a few hundred photos with my Nikon D810, maybe a dozen with my rollfilm Mamiya 7. The digital photos get dumped on my hard drives, hardly ever looked at again, I develop the film, print over half of them and cherish every one. Go figure.

My other reaction to all this is that unless you are already well known, there is no point anymore in having a photographic website, you will not be seen. I have given up on that side of things and gone back to getting exhibited in local galleries, more productive to my point of view.

I think it's a mistake to call 99% of the images uploaded to Facebook "photographs".

These things uploaded to Facebook are to photographs as a text message is to a short story, as a voicemail is to a song, as a Vine is to a film.

There's nothing wrong with a text message, a tweet, a voicemail, a snapchat, or a Vine - but they are communications not "works". Ephemeral. The author would not be upset to know they'll never be read or seen again after they were seen once.

Photographs, short stories, songs, films are different. They exist and persist in the world.

We need a new word for an image that is an ephemeral communication, because calling them "photographs" causes confusion and cheapens actuals photographs.

Peter Croft said:

"I thought that if a professional photographer couldn't get a good shot in a dozen or so tries, he wasn't very good. I'm still inclined to that view."

I agree. The way I work, if I couldn't do an editorial shoot in 72 shots, I was never going to get what I wanted.

If you shoot events, it's a different story.

"What's the Purpose of Taking More Photographs?"

'Cause it's fun.

(Sure, I could stop - I think - maybe . . .)

When I'm asked the difference between a pro and an amateur I respond " 10 feet'. It's true to some degree because a pro wont let fear or insecurity get in the way of a good shot.

Except that now instead of going from a reject rate of 99% to 99.9%, many "photographers" are uploading 99%+ fishing for likes, comments, etc.

It will be interesting to see when the novelty wears off.

It sums it pretty well./


I agree with Jeremy, capture is such an ugly term. It has a bit of a violent undertone or a feeling of conquest. "Nice capture", well gosh, I didn't go out and wrestle the subject into submission and beat the composition into place. I took a picture.

That's why I prefer using a medium format film camera with 8 or 10 exposures per roll. I spend more time looking at a scene before taking a photo, than I would spend on editing them.

"My point here is just this: that the point of being able to take more photographs is to show fewer of them. Not more."

I disagree with your thesis. Editing ones work more closely is a generally constructive and healthy effort. But its objective has no relation to the number of images created. Better coverage enabled by unlimited storage equally offers more post-edit images and a richer portrayal.

Dear Folks,

Add me to the growing chorus. I don't "capture", I make photographs. I make'em digitally these days instead of chemically. Big whoop.

Anyone who tries to tell me they ain't photographs is gonna get an E-M5 upside the head, to clear out the cobwebs.

pax / Ctein

When anyone asks my advice (not all that often) I tell them the way to take better pictures is to throw away the bad ones. No one takes my advice because they don't believe they take any bad ones. They are wrong.

With regard to Barthe's comment, I think it's an open question whether the photos that you or I have seen are *representative* of all those being taken.
I don't agree that all the extras are happy snaps: many of the people holding a camera today, in a society where access was limited 20 years back, will be talented. However it's also true that the more photos that are made, the harder it is to do something new, just because we all gravitate to similar subjects. So if in 1860 every photo was ground-breaking, and in 1940 1/10K, now it might be 1/100M.
Or more, or less: we could be in a sort of Zeno's paradox where the boundary of "done" is spreading at a sufficiently declining rate that it will reach a limit (or already has). It could be argued that post-modernism was a recognition of this, although sadly many of its practicioners were too naive and self-assured to know what was real and what was pastiche (and so we had Derridien analyses of theoretical physics by barely numerate graduate students who had not even read Derrida).
However, as for how to use some version of photography to become rich and/or famous, which seems to be the implicit question... is much larger, and if anyone knows, s/he is already doing it :-)

Back in the days of pen and paper nobody worried about the great mass of written stuff that could never be read by anyone in a zillion years. I wonder why that was? ;-)

[You obviously don't read much in a subgenre known as "books about books." I've read LOTS of commentaries about that very subject. And then there's:



Yesterday I went downtown to my favorite bookstore. That’s only ten minutes on the bicycle. The tourist season in Amsterdam starts in a few weeks, but on my trip I already saw dozens busy taking pictures. A lot of smartphone selfies of course, but also countless photographers with kitlens dslr’s. Their purpose? Fun and entertainment I hope. Surely many are upgrading their experience by shooting in a pale 1967 color program or in a 19th century vignetting mode completed with scratches. As if they were there when things happened! I don’t care as long as they are enjoying themselves and don’t hit each other or innocent passers by with their selfie sticks in an attempt to get the best spot. The only thing that surprises and puzzles me is that blind brick stone wall halfway the route. On my outward journey as well as on my way back, always someone is making pictures of it. Testshots I guess?

"What else are they taking all those captures for, anyway?"

Because the only constant is change.

Given the figures you quote, I wonder how Facebook can enforce their policy of "no nipples etc unless . . ." (https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards#).

"We remove photographs . . ."

How on earth can they find the photos to remove among all the 288 million picture posted every day?

There's photographs, and there's flicks. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=flick&defid=213483

I shoot both. There's the "hey, look what I had for dinner" and the "hey, look at the pretty sunset" flicks, and the "consider this sunset, sirrah" photograph. The latter gets a lot more time and usually happens with a "real" camera and time spent in either Photoshop or Lightroom. The former are almost always cell-phone shots with the only editing being a quick crop & straighten.

One is documentation. The other aspires to be art.

"f you are the median age in the USA—37 years old—and you will live an average lifespan for a male, which in the USA is 77—and you looked at one picture per second full time, eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year for the rest of your life, you wouldn't have enough time left in your life to look at all the photographs that are uploaded to Facebook in one single day. One day."

These are marvelous and impressive numbers, and they certainly suggest the extent to which the creation of images by digital means and their subsequent sharing have become deeply human enterprises.

Yet, the numbers are, if looked at in a different way, perhaps less surprising. For example, if you took all of the WORDS written by humans each day and started reading them at a rate of one per second...

You get my drift. ;-)


The LA Times ran an article yesterday about the famous Dorothea Lange photo from 1936 of the mother and 3 children at a migrant worker plant called "Migrant Mother."
Lange, in a 1960 interview in Popular Photography said she nearly missed the photo opportunity and only took 5 photos to get the one that became famous. The story (see the link) is fascinating!

to state the obvious, but easy to overlook, the relevance of this conversation is shaped to the degree and in light
of whatever context one has consciously created for their life, what one says their life is about . .. . in the absence
of a conscious stand about ones self and ones actions, all topics , including this one become somewhat meaningless . . . .
that said ( and i'll add that photography has been my main pursuit for over 30 years ) i wanna chime in :
throwing away the 99.9999% . . . that's the way it's always been for me, but i want to add that simultaneously i've
always considered that pile of rejects to be a kind of mulch that the few images that i do value needed to
be "fertilized" by .. . that they couldn't have happened without the rejects . . ..
also, regarding ones own work i've come to believe that there comes a time in ones practice that making good photographs
becomes energetically less useful than switching ones attention to not making bad ones .. . .
( yes i recognize that you have no idea what i might mean by using words like " good " / " bad " . . . .
whatever, assign meaning that works for you ) . . .
and regarding the "tsunami" . . . . once you've satiated that which compelled you to "look" then stop
looking so much . .. . instead of wishing others were more selective with what they're showing i think it's wiser
to become more selective with how much and what we look at . .. . like with food, there's a penalty to be paid if one stuffs oneself
past a point and there's no profit in cursing the chef . .. .

[You obviously don't read much in a subgenre known as "books about books." I've read LOTS of commentaries about that very subject. And then there's:


So true but those are "books" which must equate to printed photos in some way, maybe gallery or magazine photos. I was thinking of diary entries, menus, marginal notes, shopping lists etc that I feel are more comparable to the great mass of photos published on Facebook and elsewhere. For example I take photos of vegetables I am growing as a memory aid to when and what I planted and how they are doing at certain times. I wouldn't really call these photographs, they are more like notes and stored in iPhoto it is easier to use them than if I had made written notes.

Sometimes I wonder what's the purpose of stringing more words together into sentences? It seems like there is an ever mounting pile of words strung together and everyday there are even more. :-)


Instagram admits, about 70% of all pictures and videos remain unseen. Unseen even by those who are explicitly interested in seeing. And now they try to stop the tsunami...

I've recently re-read Susan Sontag's essay Against Interpretation, and the following quote stood out. Bear in mind this was written in 1964!

Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life - its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness - conjoin to dull our sensory faculties.

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