A Photographer’s Lament
I see that it has been almost one year since I lasted posted here. There are a lot of reasons for my long absence, but in the spirit of a blog as journal, I feel I should share the main one that has kept me away. Perhaps any few readers that might still have left me hanging in their RSS feed would have some comments to share–I’d be interested to hear your take.
I know a lot of photographers have different ideas of when the “golden age” of photography was (or is). Many feel we are in it now. Perhaps there never was one; I really don’t know. But I think we are definitely moving farther and farther away from anything like it due to the fact that the photograph has been devalued (in any sense of the word value) to almost nil. There are many contributing factors to this, but I would claim the most important ones are a perfect storm of: smart phones with cameras, always connected internet, and the embrace of social media to photography. I know some would argue that this is yet another case of technology creating a great democratization, where everyone is enabled to share their great “photographs”. All I know is that I’m tired of looking at pictures of restaurant food and pets lying on the couch.
There are so many images flooding by online that the attention span that anyone has for any photo, taken in any way, is down to fractions of a second. We scroll by hundreds of images in an internet session, barely resting on the occasional one for a second or three. Once in a great while one will make us stop for 10 seconds–and that must be a damn interesting image to do that.
In such an environment I’m just not that inspired to put my photography out there.
In retrospect, this has been a long time coming, and I think that a lot of the inner artistic turmoil that I’ve been putting myself through in the last couple of years was rooted in this growing feeling, although for a long time I could not articulate it. I was looking for anything to make photography interesting enough to make me want to post photographs again. But in the end there was no holy grail. I continued to make pictures that were meaningful to me personally, but the idea of sharing them online became painful to even think about. So I stopped. I don’t want someone to “like” my photo–I want someone to engage with it. And that just isn’t going to happen online these days. The ship has sailed, and it’s a brave new world. The photograph is dead. Long live the photograph.
I’m not ready to give up photography. It’s too enjoyable and too much part of who I am. But it is going to change for me. Big time. I need to rediscover the places to engage in that kind of artistic dialogue with other photographers, artists and thoughtful people that I used to find online. I find I’m thinking a lot more about prints again, both how to make them and where to show them. In the past I did a lot with books and folios–these now seem more important than ever.
And the web? I’d love to be convinced otherwise, but I feel like a tsunami came and destroyed a perfectly good venue for photography.
I honestly can’t say what will happen to this blog. I’ll probably still post some work here, because it is a personal creative journal, first and foremost, but I’m still coming to grips with the new reality and how I feel about it. We live in interesting times, interesting times…