Photography 2.0

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photo 1

One of the millions of photos on flickr. [Oblivion Ratula /Flickr]

A group of teenagers sits in a loose cluster on the floor of an airport lounge photographing each other with cell phones and giggling over the results. A man takes a picture of everything he’s eaten that day and posts the results online.

In Bangalore and Portugal, in Boston and Maputo, Mozambique, “amateur” photographers are recording, documenting, and preserving the minutia of daily life like never before. Births and birthday parties, but also cloud patterns, garbage on a street corner, the blur of traffic or the neighbor’s dog. The result is an astounding collection of visual images, adding up to hundreds of thousands of pictures every day. Today alone, the 3,174,643 members of Fotolog posted over 201,000 images online.

photo 3

One of the millions of photos on flickr. [Tomi Knuutila /Flickr]

Photography was long ago taken out of the hands of elite professionals and fine art image makers and appropriated as a tool of the common place, or at least the middle class. And photography as a practice has long mediated social relationships, has long been about documentation and ritual, about representation of the physical world, and about “reality.” It’s long been about taking the instantaneous moment and stretching it into the infinite. But the latest revolution in the taking, making, and sharing of images, of so many images, feels somehow different and significant.

We’d like to talk about this latest wave of image making/taking/sharing technology, and its wider cultural and social implications. What does it do to the practice of photography, and what does it do to us?

Update, 9/27/06, 5:30 pm

I’m catching up on my reading on this thread, and wow, what great stuff! There are a ton of great comments and links and suggestions here. I’m trying to get this show on the air now, and would really love suggestions on possible main guests. Who is today’s Susan Sontag or Roland Barthes? I think we need a theoretical critic on that level to make this show really sing.

Update, 10/11/06, 2:21 pm

So it looks like this show is going to happen tomorrow, and we’re very excited about Keith Jenkins, the first of the guests we’ve booked. We found him in one of the most perfect Open Source-y kind of ways. David stumbled across the photo he took of I.F. Stone while searching Flickr for a photo to accompany the post he’d written about that particular show. Turned out not only was Keith a talented photographer and a prolific photoblogger, but also happened to be the Photo Editor of the Washington Post! When someone believes whole heartedly in the ideals of community journalism or Web 2.0, we say they’ve “drunk the kool-aid.” In this case, I would say Keith is actually making the kool-aid. It should be an interesting conversation.

Also: we’re looking for flickr-related stories to integrate into the show and for a web feature. If you’re in the habit of photoblogging, post a link to your favorite flickr picture and tell us about that shot, and about how using the site has changed your practice and community habits. Do you take more pictures than you used to? Do you share pictures that you wouldn’t have in the past? Has your criteria for pictures changed? Do you see yourself more as being part of a community than you once did?

Keith Jenkins

Picture Editor, The Washington Post

Flickr blogger, Burnt Pixel

Blogger, Good Reputation Sleeping

Founder of the Post’s Blog City feature

Heather Champ

Community Manager, Flickr

Fred Ritchin

Associate professor of photography, Tisch School of the Arts

Director, Pixel Press

Picture Editor of The New York Times Magazine, 1978-82

Author of forthcoming book, After Photography

Dan Bersak

Photojournalist

Robb Ogle

Flickr Blogger, Rahbuhbuh

The Font Bureau affiliate


Comments

68 thoughts on “Photography 2.0

  1. Everything in the chain is cheaper and easier: cameras, software, distribution. The art has deep roots, but the latest wave may be just that, a social wave. It’s easy to point, shoot, and distribute, but does that mean it’s fine art? We’re lucky to have this technology and now we can make photography what we want it to be. There are always going to be good picture-takers and bad picture-takers. Now we’ll just see more of them.

  2. There’s an incredible sense that things are now documented, which is comforting in one sense and in another a little indimiating when it comes to privacy.

    What I’ve found more interesting is the social networking done through photography on sites like flickr and buzznet because photos cross language barriers. Those sites also log, in a sense, those cultures as seen through the eyes of their members and visitors.

    Good photography is not lost in all this noise, it still rises above, but sometimes seems more democratic than exclusive.

    There are also some great sites out there offering challenges and competitions for photographers who want to test themselves. I belong to dpchallenge.com, but there are quite a few others.

    My last thought is that there are some limitations placed on photographers all over the world by private security, military and police. There are a lot of places you legitimately can’t take photos, but there area also public places where photographers are not only hassled, but assaulted and held by private security because they are simply taking pictures.

  3. For about 10 years, from the mid-90′s until about a year ago, I was heavily into photography. I did the black and white darkroom thing, and the Photoshop thing, but in the last year or so I’ve lost interest. It’s just too easy now.

    It used to be that any black and white 8×10 looked artistic enough to impress people not used to seeing anything other than a color 4×6. It used to be that a good photo was rare enough for people to care. Now, every day, an infinite number of monkeys banging on an infinite number of digital cameras produce lots of very good pictures.

    So I’ve decided to step off the treadmill and for the most part limit my photography to taking pictures of my family and friends. Art has been killed by too much art.

    Now I play the saxophone. I don’t expect that they’ll have that built into a cell phone any time soon.

  4. NineInchNachos: Just looked at your photographs, thanks, those are great… This is inspiering me to try out my camera. I finally bought a digital camera a few months ago but have not taken the time to figure out how to use it yet. I bought it so I could photograph my art but I also liked the idea that I could go out collecting shapes, colors and objects without worrying about the expense of film. I used to make compositions out of objects that I put into my scanner. Digital cameras broaden the scope of possibility. I’ve never done photorealism painting but I imagine an artist could do some remakable surrealistic work using this technology. I like the idea of mixing up the high tech tools with the taditional media. One of my favorite sculptures was a hand clicking a mouse carved out of marble. Unfortunatly I dropped it on a concrete floor.

  5. Paintbrushes and paint are readily available, yet painting continues (although somewhat shakily) as an art form. Look at sculpture after the readymade.

    Art is art if it is labelled art. However whether it becomes labelled good art has more to do with the viewer than the artist. There are lots of intermingling issues in this discussion.

  6. Nanu Nanu Peggysue,

    I love my digicam. It is a tiny pentax that I can stuff in a pocket, which is good for stealth as well as economy. It can also go underwater, but I am to nervous to try that feature out yet. Eventually your spider sense will develop and the hairs on your neck will let you know when is the good oportunity to capture space/time. I like flickr because it saves bandwidth on my personal website and promotes community & backlinks.

    Keep it Real.

  7. I always keep a camera in my backpack or in my pocket. I see it as essential for recording anything I might want to remember or see again later. But more importantly, as a citizen journalist, if I see something I think deserves reporting about – i take the picture. Simple example… I run into alot of police checkpoints here in Amsterdam, mostly to check for drunk driving, its a very odd site to see as many as 16 cops at one corner pulling over every car that passes by. I tend to quickly snap a shot of such events, because just like in the days of the Black Panthers, I am patrolling the police with my camera.

  8. An excellent (and fairly new) photography blog is theonlinephotographer.blogspot.com. It’s a little equipment, a little technique, and a little of anything proprietor Mike Johnston (an excellent writer on the subject) can think of. I think Chris and Co. could dig it.

  9. A good friend of mine passed away unexpectedly this week. Almost immediately, a group of us who were close to him looked through our cameras, cell phones, computers and on-line archives, and we found dozens of pictures we had taken of our friend. These pictures seemed unimportant at the time, we were just hanging out and happened to snap a few shots. However, as this tough week has gone by, nothing has provided more comfort to all of us than being able to look at these pictures. Ten years ago, before this revolution in photography, we would have been lucky to dig up one or two pictures, probably in cheesey, posed “gathering” style shots. A week ago, I probably would have been on the side of this debate that says ‘this has killed art,’ but I can say for certain, I will now be snapping pictures with my camera like there’s no tomarrow, because often times, there is no tomarrow.

  10. Bobo, so sorry for your loss — and I know how wonderful it is to have those photos of someone who is suddenly gone. I lost my brother and father, years apart, but each in an instant.

    Related, but from the opposite perspective, I’ve asked my daughter to have photos I’ve taken rather than photos of me at my memorial. I want people to see through my eyes — that’s as close to immortality as we can get, I think. So the more photos the better — art or not.

    There is a place for photography as art. But there is also a place for the everyman or woman to record his or her vision of the world. If the artist is secure, the hobbyistic interest of others shouldn’t pose a threat to the integrity of the art.

  11. for me, photography has always been about preserving memories. my photos are like clues, breadcrumbs i’m leaving behind so that one day i can go back and piece together what it is this life was about. or more to the point, i have a photographic memory, if i don’t take a picture, i have no memory…

  12. I am witnessing on Flickr an explosion of interest among those for whom photography was a half-abandoned hobby. For me, it was the instant community that I was enveloped in (even though my images were mediocre) that kept me shooting everyday, and steers my work now.

  13. Being able to share and experience images in a decentralized way at the speed we are becoming accustomed to can be overwhelming, but it’s great fun. Sending photos across phones is a great time killer at the airport or bus stop. We seem to want more and more images delivered faster to and from even more devices.

    Here are a couple recommended links to more on photography and theory, I’ve found the theorists dense and confrontational, but good reading.

    Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_Lucida

    Susan Sontag’s On Photography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Photography

    On the lighter side, check out http://www.lomography.com/ for a long running website of snaps made with inexpensive and odd russian cameras… mostly film, but it seems a bit of a forerunner of the current flickr phenomena.

    “Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.�

    -attributed to Paul Valery by Walter Benjamin in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” ca. 1935

  14. Banal as it may seem, humans are built to process visual information. We find images infinitely fascinating. But another factor at work is that our species is forever trying to find order in chaos. As everyone’s world changes ever more quickly, one form of order we all seek is reconnection with a dimly remembered past. Static images of that world make us feel as though there is some structure in the chaos of time and change as we are carried along in the vortex. Babies focus on mom’s facial features in the first month, finding reassurance there; adults focus on photos of mom.

  15. “…humans are built to process visual information. We find images infinitely fascinating. But another factor at work is that our species is forever trying to find order in chaos.”

    Yes, we are pattern-makers and pattern recognizers, and visual patterns seem most accessable to us, though auditory patterns are also strong.

    We humans are primarily binary beings — left/right, front/back, up/down, on/off, yes/no, go/no go. It could be argued that we’ve been approaching the digital revolution for a million years. 0/1 is the most logical, efficient and elegant extension of human binarism.

    Making and capturing images has been ubiquitous for millennia. I think the new aspect is saving and posting them for all to see; the WEB effect.

    For me, the question is whether the digital web effect will work its way into our binary subconscious and find synchronicity, mental blast-off!

  16. The simple significant development of digital cameras + the internet is that the amateurs (myself included) have taken over the asylum.

    A professional may produce a gem in only 10 attempts at a scene; an amateur may produce one, maybe by chance, in 100 attempts. The basic fact that you can take thousands of photographs without consequence of cost or effort allows anyone to come up with a stunning photograph in the long run. In the same way that a million bloggers make traditional journalists less relevant- as long as a social folksonomic web site can separate the stunners from the junk- similarly, a million amateur photographers who do not fear getting it wrong enhance our experience as long as Flickr-like folksonomy works.

    Also, since digital cameras have such a low cost- in many ways- average people are photographing the mundane more often and it is these photographs that make Flickr really special. These photographs would never have existed- the photographs of someone’s shadow (above), of red pepper flakes swimming in olive oil or the wall of a blockbuster video store.

  17. good thoughts Devanjedi,

    but may I had that this has happened before

    the 35mm camera put photography in the hands of masses

    then later the fully automatic point and shoot

    the disposable

    and now the digital point and shoot.

    Paint brushes are very democratic as well –but we are not all painters.

    I believe (and I don’t think this is from an elitist viewpoint -although elitism needs to be considered in this discourse) –that there is a lot more to photography thana well framed, asthetically balanced, in focus and well exposed photograph.

  18. @chilton1, I agree absolutely. There is an artistic eye that even a thousand trial-and-error photographs cannot provide and there is experimentation that the average point-and-click photographer (e.g. myself) cannot comprehend.

  19. I’ve given a lot of thought about this pro vs. amateur photo topic. It boils down to this, I think:

    1) There are different types of photography.

    2) Fine art and portrait photography, e.g., as well as extreme nature photography, are relatively unthreatened by amateurs.

    3) Street and “found art” photography are accessible to anyone; it is here that the mob is triumphing.

    My love is this latter category. Now that anyone can create and consume this type of photography easily, it has forced me to retreat from my previous (though publicly unstated) goal of “showing off”. Now I photograph less often, and with more personal goals in mind. Now I photograph to produce images just for myself. Maybe this is a step toward art, not a retreat, after all.

  20. Citizen journalism: major news is picking up on this: “send us photos of potholes, we’re taking the city to task,” paraphrasing a recent online call to arms by a Boston Globe reporter.

    Steven Johnson’s “Everything Bad is Good for You” cites a study which found the mean IQ has steadily risen (wish i could remember the name… scores are in flux to keep the average around 100 but tests have been getting progressively harder. Result: today’s everyman is smarter than the 1920s everyman.) People’s visual acuity and pattern recognition has seen the biggest increase, not mathematical or scientific skill. Johnson suggests it’s due to all the video games and pop media we gobble up. We understand the process now and we want to make/capture original stories with our new toys. All for the better.

    Now that everyone has taken up the photographer’s tool, we need to mimic their editorial discretion and know the limits of the device. Camera phones are terrible for indoor/dark lighting, yet people obsessively snap away in concerts blinding the band and neighboring crowd. The event turns sour and the images are awful blurs, people know this yet take and post them anyway. Professionals don’t show their duds, but pick the choicest for display. Only our moms want to see EVERY shot we took.

    I’m curious how many of the photo bloggers actually call themselves “photographers?” I sure don’t, i just have a camera to document my own typographic hobby ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/rahbuhbuh/ .) Photographers I know adjusted by charging less for digital while still offering film as the artier/classier medium. Most digital cameras don’t replicate the quirks of their workhorse medium format cameras or antiquated lenses they’ve spent years mastering.

    I’m wary of how narcissistic some photo blogs can be, pouting self portraits accompanying self referential faux-gossip column text. They play the fake celebrity object, reporter, and paparazzi all at once. It’s just a bit defeating.

  21. it is a battle in a way

    There is a photographer, of whom I have seen correspondence from, who signs himself off as…

    “for less and better photography”

  22. I’d like to suggest that you do a similar program on “Video 2.0″ The same type of thing that’s happening with photography is happening with video—-Free places to host video: YouTube, Blip.TV, Vimeo, Google Video, the Internet Archive, and on and on. The rise of popular video podcasts like rocketboom.com, Ask a Ninja, and Geek Entertainment Television. The ability to blog video with mobile phones. This is a burgeoning medium, worth examining.

  23. I noticed that Ben mentioned lomography.com as a “lighter” resource, but there might actually be something of value in the community of lomographic photographers.

    As usual, Wikipedia can be trusted (with a grain of salt) with supplying bountiful information.

    While it’s not entirely relevant to the Flickr phenomenon (lomography has occasional pretensions toward higher art which are only vaguely and inconsistently satisfied while Flickr decidedly does not) there is a certain philosophy to the lomo movement that is strikingly relevant to the “photography 2.0″ phenomenon.

  24. The “delete me” rating of the Cartier-Bresson photo on flickr says as much about the wisdom of crowds (last night’s show) as it does about photography 2.0.

    The more pieces of art there are available, the more we need curators to help us get the most out of our limited time and attention. But the new photography, as exemplified by flickr, simultaneously increase the amount of art and decrease the influence of experienced curators. We are left with lots of usable stock photography but no well-marked paths to help us understand the context of any of it.

  25. Photography, for me, is an occasion to think about analog vs. digital records of reality. Once we spoke mostly of “taking� pictures. Now it’s become more a matter of “making� them.

    And this gets at a paradox concerning the fidelity of these different types of recording. With analog photography, with analog recording in general, there’s a direct, causal, one to one relation between the physical reality being captured and the nature of the record, the copy, itself. Light is focused through a lens and exposes black and white film. Silver nitrate reacts to the light, and clumps dark in proportion. A positive is then developed from this negative. The record directly reflects the reality recorded. There’s a physical causal connection between the stuff of reality, in this case light, and the stuff of the record, chemicals reactant to the light. The same goes for the grooves in a vinyl LP. There’s an intimate continuity between the storage of reality and the reality being stored.

    But when we get down to the intrinsic nature or “stuff� of a digital file, we’re left with just a bunch of zeros and ones. If we could peek into the file itself, what we’d see would tell us nothing directly about the reality recorded there. We have to rely on computer hardware and software to translate the file to return us to a picture of the original reality. And with this gap that’s opened up between the reality and the record, with this loss of intimacy, any number of manipulations and distortions can come into play, surpassing anything possible in a darkroom.

    Yet at the same time the case for digital is for its superior precision and clarity and quality. Certainly CDs sound, on the surface, clearer and crisper than vinyl. But some still insist on the latter, claiming a warmer and more intimate sound. People like George Lucas champion the switch to digital in movies. But I wonder at the possible loss. Is fidelity to reality, accuracy of representation, being threatened? Or am I just being longwinded and paranoid?

  26. digital photography has put the “final” nail in the coffin of authentic representation. There is a generation of children growing up now who will never relate photography with reality – just as we understand what re-presentation in painting means.

  27. The ubiquity of digital cameras will increasingly determine what becomes a continuing story in the news media. Consider: CIA director resigns after reports of being at a party with prostitutes; prisoner abuse by US military personnel in an Iraqi prison.

    Just reading the words, which one is the juicier story?

    But it was the one with pictures that went somewhere.

    And the pictures were only available because of the ubiquity of the $250 pocket digital camera.

  28. I think one way in which digital cameras might improve the photography of the average user is that you quickly discover what the pros know: the way to take one good photo is to take 88 crappy photos. But before now, only a few people were willing to spend that much on buying and developing film.

    Now when I use my camera I rarely pose anyone or anything, because I’m not trying to get something perfect the first time to preserve film. I just take a bunch of photos and choose the best one.

    That said, one thing I hate about Flickr is that people who aren’t good photographers take lousy pictures of you and post them online. At SXSW I heard Heather Champ say, “well, you don’t want to post pictures of your friends not looking good, because it’s just not polite.” Well, that’s a future that’s not evenly distributed yet ;->

  29. The great irony in all this photographic recording of our lives is that much less of it is likely to survive into the future than the photography of the past!

    My father shot Kodachrome slides and black-and-white negatives back in the 1930′s and 1940′s that are still perfectly fine today. They’ve survived in shoeboxes with no technical intervention from aunts and uncles and sisters.

    That’s because the silver-based photographic technology is remarkably stable and can still be viewed or scanned in 2006.

    But that won’t be true for any of our digital technology. Magnetic media degrades after only a decade or two, depending on temperature. Optical media’a lifetime is unknown – it may be somewhat longer, though there’s no way to know for sure – “accelerated aging” tests require guessing ahead of time what the most likely failure modes are and the optical storage industry’s track record is none too good there.

    And anyway, the technology will become obsolete long beforwe the media decays. I had research data from college recorded on DECTAPE – just try finding a DECTAPE reader at your local CompUSA, and even if you could, where would you find the software to decode it? Whatever people are using for data storage in 20 years, it probably won’t resemble CD/DVD’s. Maybe it will be little holographic cubes or something and your kids would need to go to a computer museum in 30 yeas to see your Kodak Photo CD’s. And in 50 years? And what about the image formats? Good ol’ JPEG will probably seem like Amiga IFF’s by then.

    The only reliable way to ensure all this stuff goes forward with us is to have the active, involved intervention of committed geeks to keep copying our images onto the The Next Big Thing before the last big thing is too far gone. And that just AIN’T gonna happen for a lot of people’s photographic shoeboxes. So a lot of social history will be lost.

  30. “the photography of the average user is that you quickly discover what the pros know: the way to take one good photo is to take 88 crappy photos. ”

    In don’t know which pro’s you’re talking about. I do studio dance and nude photography and I take my time setting up each shot, getting the lighting and pose just the way I want it. I pay enough for the models and the equipment; I’m not going to waste it by shooting away at random.

  31. Actually, it was Ansel Adams who said that – sort of. He always told people that you’re damn lucky if you can find one good photo in every roll of film you develop. Before I switched to digital, my wife and I would easily burn 30 or 40 rolls of film on a vacation seeking that elusive one good photo per roll. And usually, Ansel was right – we’d end up with about one great pic for each roll we took.

    I finally made the switch to digital in 2003 to document a trip to Oman and the UAE, and have had a hard time turning back. I love my old Canon EOS Rebel, but always dreaded waiting for my pics to be developed. Now with digital, Ansel’s axiom is thrown out the window, because you can preview your pics as you go and know whether you’re on the right track, whether you’re wasting your time, whether you got the gem you were looking for.

    When flickr entered the picture, everything changed, because it embraced the beauty of tagging and social networks to let people connect with each other, whether through a group of like-minded shuttrbugs, or through the pleasure of searching individual tags to see who else has photographed the same thing (or at least come up with the same tag for whatever reason).

    As of this evening, I’m just a little shy of 9,000 photos on Flickr. So far I’ve been able to document every step I’ve taken while traipsing the world, captured the absurdly adorable moments of my cats, and encapsulated the wonder of becoming a father last month. And because Flickr’s a community, all the people who care about me or the things I care about can join me for the ride, sharing a little bit of themselves along the way.

  32. As an avid amateur photographer, I am obviously fascinated by the topic and certainly look forward to your show. I would suggest that as a sidebar discussion, you look into the tremendous growth of the digital scrapbooking world as it relates to the explosion in digital photography and other digital technologies. It is incredibly interesting to see how many (mostly women) have become involved in this– purchasing high-end cameras, computers, special software, etc– all because of the availability and ease of use in this new technology.

    I am also facinated by the social and economic side effects of this and would enjoy listening to your findings. There are many digital Web communities, some of which have grown into million dollar industries. And it should be noted that these Web communities have thousands of users, from around the world. Women from many different countries sharing and conversing on a daily basis, thanks to this common interest in photography, and the ability to journal and capture every moment of their families’ lives in print– for all the world to see. It’s just amazing!

    In addition to the upside, what are the negative aspects? Are health issues– weight gain, lack of excercise, depression, etc., being caused by so much time at the computer– processing digital image after digital image? Is there an addictive component to this new love affair with digital photography? Lots of room for discussion here!

    Please consider adding this to your list for further research, as it relates to your topic of photography. I will certainly tune it!

    Thank you,

    Juli

  33. With the velocious rise in technological advances often resulting in the diluted/deluded proliferation of the human mind (information overdose), what happens to our sense of grounding as a human person?

    If we continue to carelessly throw all manner of perception, whether in print or in pixel into the social soup, what happens to the consistency and flavour of the broth?

    Without allowing the space and time for the psycho-spiritual juices to simmer, what is left to deliver flavour to life’s course?

    Maria.

  34. Maria Boulet-Greffar – perhaps it is an illusion that we ever had a “sense of grounding as a human person” or that there has ever been a “onsistency and flavour of the broth”

  35. What a great topic.

    I am a novice photographer and it shows–and that’s okay. I love being able to enhance my blog with photos that I’ve taken. I feel like a full-service content provider. Shaping a story with words is one thing, but photos take the story to the next level.

  36. I take photos for fun and publish some of them on Flickr. For me, making images is just another way to express myself. I am an intensely visual person and I want other people to see what I see. I also write, but I get such an intense rush of meaning from a good photo that almost never add any textual commentary. With images, it’s possible to say things without having to force any conclusions.

    The overall experience of creating images bears striking similarities to writing. The more you do it, the better you get. Studying the work of the masters is rewarding and beneficial. Exercises and steady practice will generally improve your craft. The more we create and communicate directly through images, the more sensitive we become to the breadth of possibilities, the nuances of technique, and the unspoken falsehood at the heart of photography.

    A novice looks at photography as a mirror on the world. Experienced photographers knows that this is a lie. There are so very many choices to be made when capturing an image, and so many forms of compression and filtering that occur in the path from the real world to a flat page with carefully arranged dots of pigment. We can’t help but throw things away and keep other things, making them more important than they were.

  37. “3,174,643 members of Fotolog posted over 201,000 images online”

    As always in the current age, the biggest problem is a surfeit of information and a dearth of useful ways to find what you want. Forget artistic merit and social/ethical concerns, people need to start thinking about meta-data. Categorization and labeling schemes are going to become increasingly vital as the volume of images increases.

    The most significant coming change in the practice of photography?

    DECIDING WHAT’S IN THE PICTURE. (and how to communicate that information to others)

    In a way this is a much deeper philosophical issue than either the question of artistic merit or questions of ethics. Let’s talk epistemology before we make big leaps into anything else.

    Also – if we’re talking digital photography, what about the issues raised by digital photo-manipulation? Is an photograph less “artistic” or does it loose epistemological status if it is digitally manipulated? What does it mean to create an image that accurately represents something in the “real world”?

    The second most significant coming change in the practice of photography?

    Authentication: how do we, the viewing public, determine which images in fact accurately represent reality? Who or what do we trust to do such a thing?

    I believe if the first issue is dealt with properly one of the byproducts is that the second will be resolved. As increasing numbers of people have digital recording devices of some kind and use them more and more frequently, deep categorization systems along with search applications designed to sort through attached metadata will enable users to validate digital information such as photographs by checking it against other information, either corroborating or disconfirming its validity. Reality by democracy.

    Anyway, just a thought. I would say more about the artistic/ethical implications of such a system but this post has run on long enough.

  38. Please reference the 1994 Pulitzer winning photograph by Kevin Carter of a Sudanese child. It is a profoundly amazing photograph, even if stark. Truly, it crosses the line by illustrating the personal consequences photojournalism can touch emotionally on those behind the lens. It wasn’t long after he took this picture that he tragically chose to take his own life. It is not easy to look at, or pretty, but it is deeply meaningful.

    http://www.femmenoir.net/main/images/ATT00664-thumb.jpg

    Please visit the following link for a synopsis of Kevin Carter’s story:

    http://www.kevincarterfilm.com/synopsis.html

  39. Photojournalism & the photo essay is more accessible than ever. What follows is quoted from ‘American Photography: A Century of Images; Photography & War’, a PBS educational feature. This question is posed:

    “War is an acid test for photography. It deals with life and death, and possesses great drama. Yet it raises questions about what pictures can and should be made, and what pictures can and should be seen. What does it mean to take a picture of someone being shot, or of dead bodies? What does it mean to want to SEE such pictures?”

    I am curious how others feel about the ‘uncomfortable curiousity’ photographs allow the viewer. Censorship is current and now. Photographers are still having their camera’s taken. They are still arrested and held suspect. They are also victims, even while they attempt to photograph the experience of victims. Do we have a right to censor what can come at great peril and personal effort because we deem it inappropriate? Thank you for your consideration.

  40. Remember a while back when the NY Times published a picture of a bombed Israeli bus with a body slumped out the window? It generated a firestorm of discussion all over the Internet, and in the paper itself. The picture was graphic, but could have been much more graphic, yet many people considered it inappropriate. Yet others felt it captured the essence of the violence – the random killing of civilians.

    I’ve also noticed that “graphic” is in the eye of the beholder. US papers and news websites would never dare go to the level of gore you see regularly in other parts of the world. Many Arab-language news services have published very gory pics, usually of civilians hurt by Americans and Israelis, but occasionally sectarian Arab violence as well. And in India – well, I can barely begin to describe the gore I’ve seen in Indian papers and news sites. I’m still haunted by a photo gallery of pics following a school blaze that killed dozens of children. One pictured featured a sobbing teacher slumped on the ground, sitting in front of a pile of charred corpses.

    The reason I mention this, horrifying as it is, is that the photo quite literally haunts me. Sometimes it just pops into my consciousness; sometimes it’s appeared in my dreams. Quite literally I feel like I was scarred by it, traumatized by it – and there are a handful of other photos I’ve seen over the years that’ve done the same to me. The most recent occurance was last year, while visiting a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana, when a young man ran up to me and shoved a pack of photos in my face, graphically depicting a Liberian who had been found that day, murdered and mutilated.

    Pictures like this are taken all the time, and usually they don’t make it into the American press. Sometimes there are moments when the use of graphic photos or videos are used to convey the sheer horror of a situation, such as the string of decapitations that occurred in Iraq a while back. The challenge, though, is balancing an editorial desire for fomenting public anger in the hopes of some kind of policy change or social outcome (condemning terrorism, cracking down on unsafe school buildings, etc), with lurid sensationalism. There’s a fine line between the two, and it seems to vary from context to context, perhaps even from culture to culture…. -andy

  41. It’s easier to capture human rights violations with a cell phone camera. When the “authorities” realize that everyone has a camera they may think twice before acting.

  42. Photography becomes a Panopticon of sorts. I will be curious to see mobile phone cameras with high enough resolution to become useful for professional media. It shouldn’t be too far away. The viewer has to be careful though, its the titling and inference to an assumed context that manipulates or directs the viewer’s interpretation of any image. Margritte’s “The Treachery of Images” (this is not a pipe) invoked this in art in the 1920s.

  43. I started a month or so ago taking pictures with my cell-phone camera as a sort of experiment. The idea was to help myself analyze myself by recording where I am and what I am doing at random times during the day. (The idea is from the Experience Sampling Method invented by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, only he used pagers and written surveys. But this is Century 2.0, and your blogger.com account allows you to post to your blog via your cell-phone).

    So I program my cell-phone to ring twice at random during the day (I do this weeks in advance so that I will not remember when it is going to ring). Then when it rings I take a picture of something around me. I haven’t had time to analyze the images yet, but just the exercise of doing it has made me think a lot more about my environment.

    So it is a little like a panopticon, as Ben notes, but one in which you are also observing yourself; it’s self-normalizing.

  44. To say that “anyone with their digital elph” can become the next Ansel Adams seems somewhat disingenuous. Yes, you can take snapshots “in the moment”, capture historically or politically important moments in time, but to produce an artistically meaningful *photograph* requires experiences, skill, and luck. The difference between a snapshot and a photograph is intent and, to some small extent, equipment. That digital elph will never produce pictures comparable to a prosumer or professional digital SLR. And even then, hand some random man off the street, a professional camera, and he will take high quality snapshots. Hand a photographer a, as your guest mentioned, a lieca or a disposable camera, and they will take amazing photographs, because they have the intent to make an artistic, striking photo. The man on the street has the intent to take a photo that captures a memory, a memory that beyond purely informing the viewer serves no purpose. I do not claim to be a photographer, but I hope that some day I will be able to achieve that level of skill.

  45. Mr. Ritchin talking about the Niagara Falls picture in the Smithsonian during the show tonight jogged my memory about a project addressing the potential historical usefulness of amature photography/videography. Chad Montrie, a history professor at UMass Lowell, has created the Home Movie Archive. The collection (which is always accepting contributions!) contains Super 8mm, 8mm, 16mm, VHS, Mini-DV, and DVD films from the 1950s up to today, and is proving to be an invaluable and unique resource for cultural research projects. Provided we can find long-term ways to save photography and video, moments captured only by amatures can be used by future generations the same way memoirs and journals inform us about the day-to-day of life 300 years ago. It’s a new kind of literacy that we may want to embrace in this quickly evolving society. From oral to verbal to visual, we always adapt. We may as well start planning ahead.

  46. http://www.flickrleech.net/

    type in any date to receive an aggregate of the various “most popular” photos in flikr -

    Im sorry but anyone who thinks the small folk cant reach the height of the pros is deluded – you have been officially “crowdsourced”

  47. finally got around to listening to this important show (I guess the conversation has died now)…

    but – flikr seems somewhat like giving typewriters to a million monkeys

  48. Pingback: keith jenkins

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