“[A]n army of photographers who run rampant over the globe,
photographing objects of all sorts,
sizes and shapes,
under almost every condition,
without ever pausing to ask themselves, is this or that artistic?”
Who do you think was the writer of these words? A cultural critic who sees the Instagramification of our society as another sign for the decline of the western world? An aging photographer whose world has been turned upside down by digital technology? Or maybe a social media user who is simply annoyed by the sheer number of photos that overrun his or her timeline?
You will be surprised to read that these words were written in 1893. Thus it was not smartphone photography that provoked the writer’s discontent but the invention of the dry plate.*
What would the same writer think about our generation? Would the writer be impressed by our technological innovations or feel disgusted seeing us spending time online to watch cute kittens or using wireless-telephone-cameras to take pictures of dogs?
At least the above quote clearly shows that today’s critics are not the first to complain about the flood of nonsensical images which are produced every minute. But while three million images seemed a lot in 1853, the one trillion photos that were said to be made in 2015 are really “a lot”.
In order to make sure that we break this record in 2016 let’s start this week with following challenge: Take a stereotypical photograph – in full awareness of the task. And probably this will inspire you to be more reflective in the future.
*J. Szarkowski: The Photographer’s Eye