I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I’ve tried writing about it properly but I really struggle with writing. I tend to knock out ideas fairly easily on flickr threads, but they’re easy as they’re like chatting. Somehow, I wish I could write like Joerg Colberg. Here’s an inspiring example in an article on Conscientious Extended, called Photography and Trust
Anyway, this thing I’ve been thinking about – it’s that I believe people are immersed in experiencing photography in a completely new way.
Flow is the new way of viewing pictures. When we look back in retrospect, we will be able to see clearly that we’ve been swept up in a new wave. A new wave in our experience of photography. The new wave is the river. It is a river of photos online, uploaded to social networks like flickr or tumblr.
On flickr there is a stat on the ‘photos’ page, which I viewed one day in March this year. It said:
“there were 7,512 uploads in the last minute.”
That could be 450,720 per hour, which could add up to a cool 10 million in one, single day.
He seems to feel suffocated and experiences the mass of images, not as a liquid form, but as:
“a huge democratic ubiquitous cloud of digital imagery available to all continually expanding outwards, blocking out the sun, bigger and more stifling with each new day, no longer individually observable images with their own qualities but an amorphous unedited mass no longer thrusting upwards with power and energy and direction but spreading out, copying, replicating and engulfing everything.”
Turpin sees the mass of images as the negative aftermath of a century’s explosion of creativity. It’s all over and we are suffering the fallout.
However, I can’t help feeling hopeful and joyful about this mass of production, because to me it’s a liquid form. I think it might be a new beginning. The sharing and exchange, not just of pictures but of knowledge; the flow and the easy access. A plasma from which new life emerges.
I don’t get bored or overwhelmed with the river of images, because the river is like life. It rushes past, containing trillions of essential moments. It’s mesmerising and like a stream, I can watch it for a long time.
So it’s a completely different way of experiencing images. It’s not a few select pieces hung on a gallery wall, or edited into a book. There’s as much space as people want to publish as many pictures as they like. In some cases, that does mean an endless stream of detritus floating and lightweight. But after a while you learn how to tap into the richest veins. You discover the most amazing personal diaries, edited but constantly fresh and striving for meaning on a day-to-day basis. You can see individual photographers learning and growing and expressing. You can see the world through their eyes. It’s like the most amazing undersea world of images. You can just dive in at any time and swim and swim and beauty and wonder, just flowes past for you to see and understand.
But I’m not sure that everyone either realises this is happening or accepts that it’s happening, or really appreciates it, even when they are immersed in it. The other day I read a post on flickr by photographer Mike Aviña entitled cleaning house, burning out the brush and it began:
“I just went through my stream and deleted a ton of crap. It felt good. I was amazed at how images I thought had some merit, after six months, looked like shite. I hope that in another year, two years I go back and delete even more. As I just begin to learn to see I am satisfied with less and I purge more.”
I can understand that he is striving to improve his photography. But I think it’s a mistake to treat a flickr photostream as an edited presentation. It’s an alive stream – your life’s blood in a way. So many of the serious committed photographers just don’t see that. To the extent that some have even deleted all their photographs from flickr and left it completely. Drained their pools dry. They’ve experienced a disillusion with social media. More on that in another post.
Photography is moments in time. We used to steal them and frame them and put them on a wall or in shoe boxes, where they would fade and collect dust.
But really, moments aren’t stolen any more, because they’re free and they’re shared. The shared moments are pumped into the tributaries and streams and feed inexorably into a dirty great river and then into a sea.