Monday, 19 October 2009

Endless wittering about photography



A friend who works at the film department at Bristol University described how students would look at 2 minutes of a film on youtube, reference that and think it was enough. They were unable to bear the pace of any film that was slow and nuanced in any way. So, sure, they knew the basic plot of All about Eve or Lawrence of Arabia but they had never watched them because they were too 'boring'.

Though she recognized how great the internet is, she questioned whether it really deepened our knowledge of anything, or merely trivialized it, transforming communally shared cinematic, televisual, musical and photographic experiences into little tidbits or random experiential-factoids without history, context or commentary.

She commented on fashion designers who withhold their ideas from the internet - mainly because they will be copied and sold by ripoff merchants around the world, but also because the internet degrades the consumer experience - it is not the way we shop.

In the same way, I wonder if photography and art isn't degraded by the internet, if looking at pictures on the internet isn't remarkably similar to watching 2 minutes of All About Eveon youtube and checking out the number of stars on IMDB and imagining it's the same as watching the movie.

We all know the people who don't have websites/blogs because they don't theoretically need websites, but I think there will a lot more people who won't have websites/blogs because they don't like websites or blogs - because they don't do anything for their work except degrade it, trivialise it and turn it to the subject of (Tim Hetherington again) 'endless wittering.'

(And with that, here's some new work from the summer. It used to be the cliche about photography that you couldn't show kids smiling or laughing (that was all the family album/school picture thing) but really, how many pictures do we have of people smiling/laughing that isn't sheer whimsy. I can think of a few but any other ideas - smiling and laughing beyond whimsy?)

9 comments:

John Taylor said...

Nice ones, funny i don't feel degraded, must be the dash of irony to enliven things at the end. Also your posts are not endless, quite succinct actually, and readable. Wittering? Did Tim strategically choose to avoid a battle with the heavy guns of Twitter or…

Anonymous said...

i'm not sure it it's the laugh, the smile, the movement or the gesture. i am beginning to think it's all in the gesture, or maybe even the posturing.
SA

colin pantall said...

You shouldn't feel degraded - it's the pictures that get degraded, that undergo a sudden decay because of being in the weird public space of the internet - even though it's really quite localized in some ways.

Tim was talking quite specifically about photojournalism and why anyone would use just still photography when you can use moving images - he did this ( http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=3858008&affil=wabc) and this ( http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/playerIndex?id=3858022).

These videos resulted in huge audiences and reached far more people than just photographs.

He's not a photographer, he's a documentary/film maker.

But then again - why make video and we can come round full circle.

colin pantall said...

Thanks Simon - I'm not sure either, but I like them. Running and laughing - has to be good.

cafe selavy said...

Watch people move through a museum and average the number of seconds they spend looking at an image. I don't know. . . .

colin pantall said...

True - but average the number of seconds you spend looking at them on the internet and compare. You never see anyone literally running through a museum looking at the whole gallery at less than a second a picture - see, click, see, click - and when people do stop, they can really stop.

dalton said...

I have come to realize that I really dislike (and in fact, distrust) looking at images on the internet. It's like constant snacking, without ever having a meal. It has made me more aware of how I treat my own work online, but even more so I go out of my way now to experience the work in person, whether at galleries, museums, or in books.

That said, the Internet is an amazing tool and I wouldn't give it up for anything. And it's a great medium for those of us who have no real hope of publishing a book or showing work in a gallery. I have connected to a lot of people through blogs and Flickr.

Igor Prawn said...

Art photography seems unable to get over the discovery that it has a navel. While never bored, it sure gets boring.

colin pantall said...

That's the dilemma, Dalton - I love the internet for all the reasons you give but it would be dishonest of me to pretend that it doesn't affect the way I look at pictures both online and by extension in magazines, books and in galleries. It has a huge effect on me (maybe not on other people) and not in a good way - so for me, and you I guess, what I see on a screen is not a photograph.

And I think looking at pictures on a computer has an effect on everyone and changes the way they look and see. But perhaps not, perhaps they can rise above it all - perhaps, but I doubt it.