Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015


Susan Sontag, "Photography is a mass art form.  Photography is not practiced by most people as an art.  It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, a tool of power."

We take an image not to relate to nature or other human beings but to capture them in moments in our time line.  We bring into our space and time images from another's moments and this increases our sense of domination.  We attack nature in order to capture for ourselves this feeling of superiority.

We have gone through many manifestations of what photography is and should be.  An art form always.  A means of documenting the ever changing lifestyle of of society, yes.  A way to express the inner landscape of the individual in this ever changing world we live in, of course.  Photography has exposed the horrors of ego, power and greed through out our history and those continuing forces are being photographed as I write this today.

The history of photography is laced with ideas and subjects that have lead us to this point in our photographic story.  We have seen photographers that tried to express their vision through creating the perfect image through visual and technical perfection.

This perfection was seen as a  mental construct of how they wished to impose their will on the external subject. It didn't always lead to a good photograph.

We are now in a more organic form of image making.  Where we approach the subject in a more awkward, self protective mood.  Where we are hesitant and naive in our ability to capture the subject present before us. These images have a more natural feel to them and because of that they appear more authentic.

This informal photography is exploited on social media.  It is the same concept of authenticity that is never authentic.  When your subjects are wearing apparel that is paying the bills on the photo shoot then we have a big problem with real lives, living a life without consumerism as a back drop.

The new editors (beholden to the homogenized outlook of corporate media) that give out assignments are not always looking for original imagery with power and purpose but images from photographers who have a following on social media.  These photographers have an already built in audience to be exploited by advertisers looking to sell products that have that  so called natural, earthy appearance.

This new age of photography is exposing the inherent dilemma of picture taking and picture making.
What is a worthy subject to make images of?

Susan Sontag, "But it is now that there is no inherent conflict between the mechanical or naive use of the camera and the formal beauty of a very high order.  No kind of photograph in which such beauty could not turn out to be present. An unassuming functional snap shot maybe as visually interesting, as eloquent, as beautiful as the most acclaimed fine-art photographs.  This democratizing of the formal standards is the logical counterpart to photography democratizing of the notion of beauty. For photography there is finally no difference, no greater aesthetic advantage between the effort to embellish the world and the counter effort to rip off its mask."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

When we choose our subjects to make images of are we imitating others or are we seeking our own unique visual voice?

If everything makes a good subject to take pics of then what criteria is used to edit out imagery that doesn't hold meaning or purpose for the viewer?

Do we say if a photo has an audience of one, two, ten or more then it made a connection with someone therefore it is worthy to be called a good photograph?

Thank goodness we are all different.  Even though in today's corporate media it is hard to get individuality in ideas and in imagery reported on.  

But because we are still different from each other and we have different desires, goals, feelings and obsessions, I think we all inherently know what makes a good image and what makes a bad image. 

There cannot be a universal objective standard to judge what constitutes a good image.  We live in a subjective universe and as such, we are in tune to ourselves and our own personal visions and not someone else's.

It is when the mass herd instinct kicks in gear and decides for us what will be acceptable and what isn't,  then we have a collective entity forcing itself upon our uniqueness.

Not every picture snapped can be a worthy image.  There are cultural and societal standards of behavior and expression that is there to protect the innocent from exploitation.

When a photographer has an intense desire to show, through a mechanical device, a unique expression, by building a relationship with the subject and eliminating all the unnecessary details that will detract from their photographic vision, then I feel that is a good start in determining what makes a good image, the photographer's individual purpose.

However, most subjects chosen in todays camera/phone explosion don't meet the standard of a good image. As we move forward in this explosion of snap shots I feel social media is catering to the masses, exploiting their ego's, patting them on the back and reducing the integrity of the photograph as an art form. 

What we see on social media is the collective mind dictating to us what is acceptable and what isn't.

And that is where social media is a detriment to photographic purpose.  Everybody posts everything, creating an effect without purpose and a Pavlov's response to copy and upload to the growing redundancy of life and in so doing creating an atmosphere of human boredom.

Be yourself and explore your own inner landscape to find your path to good photographic expressions.