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.
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?
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.
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?
Picture Editor, The Washington Post
Flickr blogger, Burnt Pixel
Blogger, Good Reputation Sleeping
Founder of the Post’s Blog City feature
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