I got an e-mail from a photo buddy in Australia earlier in the week. He has stopped updating his excellent photo blog, largely because he feels that the page views and feedback he receives don’t match the work that he puts in.
I’m sad about that – I really enjoy his work; in addition to being a photographer, he has a lifelong interest (and a library of images) in motorsport. His posts often feature shots scanned from long-forgotten and recently (re)discovered transparencies, showing an intimacy and presence in the sport that rules and superstardom make impossible today.
He’s not unique; it’s all slowing down. Photo blogging that is.
Just a few short months ago, the Web was awash with sites about everything from a picture a day, to more than intimate images of photographer’s girlfriends. Today blogs are disappearing, Web sites aren’t updated and many photographers seem to have just given up.
Meanwhile, photography’s commoditisation continues unabated; images shot with cell phones deliver the immediacy that photography’s new consumers demand, effects are added at the press of a virtual button and in seconds, the picture is on the Web for all to see.
The anti case has been aired any and everywhere and I don’t propose to challenge any of it. We live in a must-have-it-now society and time may well prove that the fork in the road we chose was the wrong one. Still, with our collective memory so well recorded, we won’t forget too much about it.
Perhaps we’ve lost the notion that one photographer has an engaging view of the world. And so, we no longer seek his/her work to enjoy more and similar images. That’s been replaced by hundreds and thousands of views of the world’s iconic places, events and it’s people. Instead of a single image that defines a specific place, time or event, we search Google and are offered alternatives by the page full. No-one seems to care about super saturation and blown highlights any more, most simply waiting for the next generation of cell phone cameras, which will surely make such technical hurdles a thing of the past anyway.
Bringing these disparate images together in a virtual place, defined by no more than a few keywords and we’ve pretty much made style, skill, art and by extension ourselves, redundant.
So, where does that leave us – me specifically?
Vaguely irritated and disappointed.
I enjoyed the bloom that bought thousands of photographers on to the Web, each one in search of an audience, an edge and a few sales. Many fell victim to natural selection early on, most had something to say – at least visually. Almost all of them have gone now too.
What is left has probably managed to retain some credibility, but despite that, their messages remain depressingly similar; today’s image (I do this too), what I did yesterday, special deals on prints and home-brewed plug-ins, plugs for upcoming workshops and equipment reviews – often even before the camera/lens/stuff has even shipped.
In his defence, Pascal’s multi-part A7 review has been compiled hands-on and addresses most of the man-in-the-street things that I consider important, with little technical content to cloud the reading. Thinking back, it was his well commented use of the 25mm Zeiss Biogon that got me into a store to buy one too – a decision I’ve yet to regret.
It’s early days for me on Dear Susan. I don’t have a defined role yet – not even sure I want one. I do want to avoid the gentle slide into don’t care though.
So, that’s about it these days and as I said, I’m disappointed. Where’s the art? Surely we can do better than this state of stasis?