By - spudfolio
Yes, photographs are cheaper in impact because of how many are taken and also, how many are encouraged to be taken at any given time.
Any sporting even has tens of thousands of shots taken by professionals all working for similar companies. Graduations, nature, landscapes, it's all just done at random without criticism and requirement for training.
And that's ok.
Because meaning and importance come from the person making the shot and looking at the shot later.
That 1 in a million formula 1 shot or meteor shot or waterfall shot that somebody had to hike 4 hours to get doesn't mean shit to anyone but the person taking the picture 99% of the time. That last 1% is for the person who's been there or has some other emotional connection to the picture *that brings up a memory*
Once people realize that and stop shooting photos to post on the internet, but to instead just take them for the sake of taking them, they'll have fun.
That's what photography is about. Unless you're actually into documenting something for others to see. Otherwise nobody gives a shit and it's honestly always been like that.
The art scene is the same way. The fastest way to ruin art is to try and show off your collection or start buying art for the intent of others to see or value.
I haven't posted a single pic but everytime I scroll through my pics, I see the value in having nearly $5k worth of gear.
I'm the same way, though for a time I did try to post some. I create images for the sake of putting myself through the process of creating them. While I do take on some paid work, which I approach totally differently, when it comes to my personal photography, I do it entirely for me. It doesn't matter to me if other people like what I'm creating, or even if they ever see it.
>Because meaning and importance come from the person making the shot and looking at the shot later.
I agree so much with this! I've also noticed a lot of my friends find different pictures aesthetically pleasing, especially when I take pictures of them. For example, I adore the candid snaps I take of them bursting into laughter, crows feet on their face and all, face kicked back. I feel such joy seeing snaps of my friends immortalized in a happy moment. They of course prefer the gentle smiles, the soft gazes, the flattering angles. It goes the same for me I suppose, but I always keep the ones I personally like and I'm very thankful we get the opportunity to take pictures and do our own little post-production without tragically expensive equipment 💜
>That 1 in a million formula 1 shot or meteor shot or waterfall shot that somebody had to hike 4 hours to get doesn't mean shit to anyone but the person taking the picture 99% of the time. That last 1% is for the person who's been there or has some other emotional connection to the picture that brings up a memory
>Once people realize that and stop shooting photos to post on the internet, but to instead just take them for the sake of taking them, they'll have fun.
This is why I collect FoundFilm lol. If it’s a shot worth taking, it’s worth remembering. FOREVER DAMMIT.
In a lot of ways, you should be thankful that photography is so accessible. Taking a great photo that stands out in an ocean of photos is more impactful. Thinking you’re a great photographer just because most people don’t have access to a camera is kinda lame honestly.
Nah. The standards of photos that have impact have risen dramatically.
Many of the “greats” may still be great today, but they would be doing work that is objectively better if that was the case.
Are there more? Of course. You’re looking at war images from hundreds or thousands of journalists, not twenty. Some of the best landscape photography isn’t made by working photographers but pilots and dentists.
Photos in many ways don’t tell a story as accurately as video…but a great photo can tell a more powerful story. It’s just that the standard of what makes great…is harder than ever to attain.
What you’re saying is why I have precisely zero interest in landscape photography other than to appreciate it or document a trip I’m on. It’s not something I’m going to sell, and there are masters that are doing it at an incredibly high level. But human stories, those can be told.
You mean it’s hard when it comes to marketing, right? It’s extremely easy to make the sort landscape images that become popular. Most popular landscape photos are as derivative as they could possibly be.
Yes that’s what I mean. It’s difficult to justify the time, effort, and expense to make images that will sell…at least for most working photographers.
People do it, and they do it well. The same is probably true for the niche I exist in too I suppose.
I don’t really see the need for effort when it comes to the actual creation of the photos, but yeah, it’s definitely much harder to get noticed if you aren’t rich to begin with.
Making something that is popular, and making something that has a market and succeeding in that market well enough to justify it as part of your business are two distinct things.
This is a subject that has been written about extensively, though usually in the context of [photojournalism](https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321417269_The_Iconic_Image_in_a_Digital_Age) or [art](https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-photos-treasure-them) and not sunset pictures and desktop images. I think if you’re looking for thoughtful perspectives on the topic, existing articles and research papers would be a great place to start.
On one hand, you're right. I don't know how many times I've read the claim that a million / billion / zillion photographs are taken and uploaded every week / month / year, and there's going to be a pretty bad signal / noise ratio in there, not to mention the sensory overkill of having photographs literally everywhere you look.
On the other hand, I see it as liberating in a sense, because even if you shoot for yourself and yourself only, it pushes you to get pictures which are different from the other million that are taken in the same hour. The more stuff that's out there, the more you have to work on your own pictures to make them different. To me, that's a very worthwhile goal.
Then again, this argument could be extended to music and literature. Now, if you have an iPhone or an iPad, you have Garageband built in, and just by arranging a few loops you can create something that resembles a track. Purist musicians my not like it, and may turn up their noses at it, but for someone who just likes the idea of coming up with a quick "banger", to use a bit of UK slang, then that's all good. They may be the only person who ever gets to hear it, but that could be as meaningful to them as a picture which everyone knows and which wins awards.
I think it comes down to the mindset because the example you gave of the macbook background most people aren’t coming into that experience looking to appreciate a photo and it’s more so just one they see all the time, whereas if you are actively just browsing and see a good shot attached to a creator or something it’s much easier to say “wow that’s an awesome shot” at least that’s how I kinda see it
That's the paradox of abundance, things loose their appeal and become ordinary, makes it more difficult to separate signal from noise, but still, art matters.
I don’t think images have lost their entire relevance with the ubiquitous availability of technological tools — modern camera. Because, even in this digital age with all its overwhelmingly media-based construction of reality, every other day we come across stunning pictures that change our personal/societal outlook on things. Photojournalism of both the past and the present is an important example of this phenomenon. Eg: Pictures taken by Dorothea Lang during the Great Depression or by umpteen conflict-zone photojournalists who bring the harsh reality of the world to the comfort of our homes in the present world.
Also, I completely understand when you say that landscapes which are supposed to be sublime and grandiose, end up being mundane after a point in time. That happens because of the sheer exposure and access the current generations have to these photographs — without ever even visiting them. There’s a very interesting work by German literary critic Walter Benjamin addressing these very questions in his essay ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’. I’ll give you a relevant summary of the article that caters to your specific questions. He theorises that the democratisation of art led by photography and film has immense potential to stand against Fascism (for context, Benjamin killed himself while escaping Nazis in Spain). This is the case because art never had a social function prior to the inception of the modern-day cameras. Art had always belonged to the arena of the elite and the privileged, hence was always ritualistic. Benjamin posits that with the advent of mechanical reproduction of art, now the tables have turned and art is not dependent on ritual anymore. It is dependent on politics — with emancipatory power alluded to it. This could be a suitable point of departure for your question. Your question doesn’t simply have easy answers, it’s something that need to be reflected upon and discussed as widely as possible.
P.S. The Marxist school of thought and especially the Frankfurt school deal with art and its implications to the modern world very thoroughly. You can easily look them up on Google Scholar.
I think it largely depends on what you're talking about.
Something like landscapes, realistically, I don't think people care unless it is something they haven't experienced. Show me a picture of Pakistan, or the buildings of Georgia, and I'll be impressed because my area is full of forests and hills. Meanwhile if you show me something like Ansel Adams' best work, even without going to that specific location, it's "Yea, I've seen forests and mountains".
I don't think it's neccessarily because of how easy it is to take the picture, but in how we just become numb. Have you seen the Golden Gate Bridge? I've seen it weekly for most of my life, it's just...a bridge to me at this point but anytime a friend visits San Francisco, they treat it like this grand landmark because it's not something that's been normalized. That's how I feel about a lot of photography, we're just normalizing the rarity of some visions.
That's why I don't view photography as trying to capture some rare sight for the masses but moments for a person. Someone else can dedicate their life to war photojournalism or photographing the antartic landscapes. I'm happy photographing my friends kids birthday party so she has a memory of the day and getting cute shots of her family, or photographing an event for at-risk youths so they have their accomplishments.
It just helps to know who you're photographing for, and being realistic. My work won't mean anything to someone even one town over because "It's a photo of a baby blowing out candles. I can get a hundred like it as stock image", but to my friend, it's framed on her wall and it's one of the most important pictures.
People don't give a shit about photos of things they don't give a shit about. But my friends and colleagues love the photos that I take of them. There are millions of photos of streets, buildings and birds, but only a handful of high quality photos of the average individual.
One of my favorite photos is of a friend smiling/laughing with his daughter.
We were at opposite ends of a sightseeing boat, maybe 20 people between us. He and his daughter were smiling and laughing. I got the photo through the crowd, nailed focus, light is perfect, they’re framed perfectly by the crowd. He actually cried when I gave it to him.
People will always care about photos they care about.
This is why I'm in this hobby.
Lol I wrote an article in college on this exact subject over ten years ago. Outstanding!
Maybe sometimes we forget their power. But then you see a true beaut and - you just feel different. And if course what floats our boats are different - but that's part of the fun of ubiquity. Getting to see on reddit some random kid's magical capture or a new perspective that just opens my mind - that's fun. Sometimes, though, the classics hit different, and that's why they're classics. I'm a sucker for a good sunset.
But sometimes grandiosity bores me, so then I get to enjoy the bonus of diversity and the challenge of imagining new visions to represent.
> But on the other hand I can't help but feel that the image has become cheapened by the sheer scale of its reproduction.
Every time photography has become more accessible, someone has made this statement. Going back to the mid 1800s.
We've been circling the drain ever since the first cave paintings.
Great resource for this is the work of John Louis Lucaites, scholar of visual rhetoric.
He posits that photography's ubiquity gives it a unique place in the world of media, as a 'democratic' form that allows information to be communicated at a scale and density never before seen. As others have suggested, that could be considered photography's great virtue.
That 'democratic' argument kind of goes like this: What motivates people to make choices? Information. What information is the most easily digestible and distributable, in today's age? Arguably, photography. It strikes a particularly unique balance in the amount of information that can be given to someone over time. Videos and audio require a timely commitment, while photography communicates only an instant, and does it instantaneously. As others have mentioned, the way this property translates to decision-making or personal 'influence' is somewhat specifically in regard to photography as art and in photojournalistic contexts, but not exclusively.
To your point on the purely aesthetic or sentimental value of photography in a world of 'beautiful landscapes,' yeah, we do become desensitized to certain views. But that's been the case since the beginning of time, and isn't exclusive to visual media--it's more exclusive to the issue of 'popular art' (not pop art). Write about the grand canyon in simple terms, because people haven't read about it before, and eventually won't care to read about it. Record the sound of whales because people haven't heard it before, and people eventually won't care to hear them--the same goes for photography. If you're photographing a mass market subject because it's popular, it will eventually become unpopular. But find the merit of the art form beyond that, and you'll have something unique forever--fewer people will care, and that's okay. Still, that gradual chain of 'progress' in popular art and media doesn't stop people from reading in general, or listening to sounds in general, or looking at photography in general. It just puts a damper on a particular, trendy 'view' over time.
So don't lose hope--photography's unique weaknesses (in ubiquity, replication, instantaneous communication etc.) is also its greatest strength, unique to it beyond what media like film, digital audio, or text can accomplish. And just like those other media, its popular subject matter becomes cheapened at a rapid rate, but the medium itself isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
\- Frankfurt School/Walter Benjamin (as mentioned by another commenter)
\- Pop Art/Warhol's attempt at 'subverting' reproduction
I think that one of the most important impacts on the creation of images today is access to a camera. I have been a working photographer, on and off, since 1976. When I started out maybe one in a hundred (North American) families had a point and shoot or rangefinder type camera, and maybe one in a thousand had an SLR.
Today, nearly everyone over the age of 12 has a camera in their pocket as a function of their smartphone. The current quality of these little cameras is quite mind boggling, it’s actually difficult to capture a bad image with the camera having the ability to focus, and set the shutter and aperture an less time than it takes to push the button. When I started, I had to meter the scene, then focus the image, then frame the shot, then push the button. Every 36 frames I had to stop for almost two minutes to reload the camera.
So now it’s come down to aesthetics. Is it framed well? Does it please *my* eye? Will it get lots of likes on Facebook or Instagram or MeWe or wherever?
I don't shoot for anyone except myself. Excepting people who hire me to do a specific job, I don't share most of my photos. I'm all out of fucks to give.
I think the focus had shifted from consuming photos (through publications) to creating photos (and looking for validation through LIKES). This has cheapened photography immensely. We're to the point of not caring one whit about other photographer's photos except perhaps for looking for ideas to copy to increase our own LIKES count.
In my own Instagram account I've started deleting all subscriptions to feeds of people I don't know personally to cut all of the visual noise. Of course for every account I unsubscribe, META seems eager to replace with accounts and ads I absolutely do not want to see, so the volume of noise is increasing. IMHO there is no longer any point in being a photographer except to communicate what we're doing to family and friends who might actually care.
Socially, the value of photography is diminishing.
Individually, a person can control both what they consume and what they create and, as such, the value or meaning can be whatever they design and assign it to be.
It’s largely a question of motive: are you making photographs because either the process itself or the final images mean something to you, or are you making photographs with the aim of them meaning something to someone else?
I think that’s the thing we, collectively, need to work through, the detachment of a need for our work to matter to anyone but ourselves. If the process or the outcome has meaning and value to the maker, then that can be enough if we allow for it and choose it.
In that context, it doesn’t matter how new or fresh a concept might be. It doesn’t matter, for example, that a landmark may have been photographed millions of times before, or that someone has already conveyed in a photograph the meaning you want to convey - we can still find contentment and meaning in the process and in the outcome of a work we make for ourselves and it doesn’t need to be compared to any other work, which avoids it becoming, as you say, cliché and generic.
One of the things I do to help me keep my balance is to limit how much work I view from others. I don’t let it flood my social media feeds, don’t constantly seek out new photographers and such. Sure, I might miss some amazing work that way, but I would go nuts if I kept looking for new photographers all the time. It’s the same with the music I listen to, movies I watch, books I read, etc. It isn’t that I avoid new works or new makers, but I’ve made a point of curating my collections so they don’t become overwhelming and so that they don’t have to compete as much for my attention and for my connections to the works. I don’t want to simply consume/devour the works of others, but to enjoy them in a sort of perpetuity.
Whether or not other people take that approach is up to them. I may be in a minority by not using music services like Spotify where I could be inundated with new music constantly, but I would rather have my limited and curated collections that hold more meaning and value for me than to have constant, on-demand access to everything.
Taking that curated approach to the works of others leaves more room for the works I create to hold more value and meaning for myself too. To your example, rather than a computer wallpaper that is in the batch from the OS, I can choose to use an image I’ve made, a scene that holds personal value and meaning. Rather than scrolling through the works of others online, I can, and do, flip through photographs I’ve made. I go between thinking critically about my work, including thinking about what I’d like to do differently in the future or what I’d change about a specific photograph if I could, but I also allow myself space to sit with and enjoy the work for what it is.
Another element is the idea of a sort of photo journal, which isn’t to imply photojournalism. When I journal, using a physical book and pen, I don’t usually revisit my entries. It’s largely a dumping ground, a way to get things out. Some of my photography is the same - it’s work that only has an immediate meaning in that I feel compelled to make the work in the moment, that it’s a sort of release, but it’s work that isn’t meant to survive or to be revisited. I tend to keep such photos separate from the work I do mean to have survive, the work I do mean to revisit. That’s one of the things I like about film photography; I’ll often use digital for the images that aren’t specifically meant to survive and I’ll often use film for the ones I mean to be more enduring. Some photos ought to be given the space to be ephemeral to make space for the ones that ought to be allowed to be more timeless. There’s a freedom that comes from allowing things to die, which is why it’s a relatively common therapeutic practice to do something like write down a painful memory and then to burn it.
So, to wrap it all up, it’s simply a matter of perspective and choice. If you choose to focus on cultivating meaning and value, you can take steps, whatever the right ones for you may be, to help you achieve that aim. But, we cannot choose for others.
Yeah, this concept of a single image or photo will have some kind of power has definitely been diminished, and largely because of the constant stream of stimulation and connectivity we have today. This is a part of a broader cultural shift, and seems to have accelerated because of phones. And while I think phone's having cameras has definitely contributed, I think this is more of a low-level psychological thing. With a phone, we are now connected to everyone and everything all the time, and it's the connectivity that's changing how people think.
This doesn't just impact photography and art, it's everywhere. A very different perspective on this came from Cal Newport, who described a "hyperactive hive mind" taking over office communication these days in books like Deep Work. It can be easy, in the office, to demand immediate communication from anyone all the time, so there's no longer a longer period where your brain can just take in a problem. And I think this goes everywhere, not just the office. People have let our technology change how they think and interact with the world. We demand immediacy.
If you don't respond to a text or a direct message immediately, people will think you are "ghosting" them, even if you just simply are in another meeting. If you post an image that requires more than just a few seconds to comprehend, people will probably not trigger that like button. And our algorithms will reinforce this behavior, prioritizing anything that triggers interaction quickly.
Trying to create deeper interactions, be it an image, or anything else, is really, really difficult, especially if that media flows through a phone or tablet. I've only seen success when there's a "tech separation". For my own work, I often will have periods of time where I completely turn off and ignore Slack, email, etc. For art, I would recommend being very careful about the experience where your images are consumed. I've seen live artists - musicians, comedians, etc - just simply ask people to not use their phones during a performance. I'm not sure I've seen successful approaches for photography yet, but I suspect it might be creating installations where people physically walk through a space dedicated to *your art* and what your art is saying. But every step of the way, you are fighting a hyperactive hive mind, like it or not.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
People have been asking this ever since photography was invented.
I remember this discussion in the 90s and I know, from history, that all kinds of people objected to photography even when it was invented because of how it cheapened “real” artists (painters).
It’s a pointless question!
I find this post hilariously ironic - do you ever consider that your use of very specific language is so over the top that it stops the impact of using slightly more out-there words?
To answer your question: yes and no. Yes in that the sheer quantity means that it's easier to spot more formulaic, unimaginative shooters. No in that it means that the standard to stand out is raised, pushing people more.
But seriously - please try to write in a way that doesn't make you sound so pretentious
Listen here, you plebeian bufoonerism. With great outrage I must express my rumination on your wholly misplaced perspectivinations. ‘Tis but not thee fault of thy originalè posterise that ye experience greatest deficiencies in illucidating the lexicon of a savant. What ho? Must OP be expected to dihydrogen monoxide down his open onions for you to better fathom them? Educate thyselsf, sire!
But, yeah, I do agree with you. I’ve had conversations with people about this before and ultimately feel that the more people have cameras and the more photos are taken, the more the art form will progress.
Also, more shooters means more chance of the appearance of someone who has outstanding talent
I hate having to write so many damn more qualifiers just to tell people I'm not here to be pretentious, plus I'm neurodivergent this is just how I write sometimes. I legit had no awareness of the discourse on this topic, but I even said I thought that this opinion isn't unique to this age of the Internet. I have never heard anyone talk about this personally so I was curious.
You seem very well ready especially with art critique and social theory don’t worry op your post was very meaningful and resonated well with me
Sunsets have always been cliché. Landscapes are nothing new or exciting, it's been that way for a very long time. Perhaps you are just seeing this now for yourself.
You are right to be bored with everyday imagery that anyone with a camera can point and click at. A sunset, or a desktop background (lol). That's not photography. That is not art. That is a photograph.
Art and powerful storytelling remain. Everyone can theoretically make pretty pictures now, but magic remains rare and elusive.
My images are almost always very meaningful to the people I give them to. It's often baptisms, confirmations and weddings. I've done portraits of people with one foot in grave, only to see my pictures appreciated by people hanging them up, after the person has passed away.
Yes, publicly accessible images have cheapened (and so has non-live music), but the response I get from my much more personal stuff have remained the same.
It’s very easy to make an image. It’s still very difficult to make a really good image.
One of the main things that adds value to an image is time. We are just about at the end of the first decade where every man and his dog has a camera in their pocket and the number of photos taken and posted has exploded, and yes a lot of them are shit, but it's going to be amazing to be able to look back upon exhaustive evidence of times and places changing.
I believe photos should be enjoyed. The challenge is, getting the right photos in front of the right audience. For instance, destination photos I post on google maps to the specific location. A lot of people google locations and look at the google maps photos to see what to expect if they visit. To me it's not about the numbers. But you would be very surprised how many people will click on your photos. I even have a few that are featured to certain locations. To me, it's nice to know someone else got something out of my work.
I think so, yes
Not at all.