In recent months I`ve read some articles of different countries bragging about the merits of “true photography” as opposed to the minute-maid Instagram effects and similar apps. It`s like our collective conscience snapped at the same time and a growing fear reached a turning point: are we condemned to live and watch photography turn into thousands of new but old clean but stained pictures of obvious themes?
A while ago, I watched a video from Creative Mornings. It gave some impressive statistics on the content generated by humanity in a per day basis. Instagram reports it receives about 40 million photos every day, and it’s, by a large margin, dwarfed by Facebook, that takes an impressive 200 million uploads every single day. It sums up to more than 6 billion pictures in a single month and a total of 90 billion images hosted by the website. Erik Kessels, a Dutch artist, printed one single day of Flickr images and took it to an art gallery. The gallery was flooded with pictures.
In past times when we went to an art gallery to see an exposition of photography we had some things we took for granted: they were great for some public, they were selected by someone with some knowledge on the topic and if we were to see it, it would take at least one minute to see each printed photo. Well, today, if you manage to make someone open a thumbnail of a picture, it`s already something to be happy for. At the same time the internet gets flooded of meaningless pictures, the struggle to make something stand out and get any amount of attention is greater than it has ever been.
It boils down to some guidelines I`ve been trying in the last month or so. The first one is that one should try to take pictures that represent the raw nature of what one wants to express. Any form of cliché is probably going to make the picture fall into the void of the 90 billion. It`s purely about what you have to show to the world, what`s unique in your way of seen things. I`m fully aware that my pictures may not fall into this category, but I`m pretty convinced that it`s a good way to go. Besides that, try to display your pictures in some place were merit counts in some form. The 500px.com is not a perfect place (I`ve already uploaded a single picture at the same time somebody was uploading it`s entire vacation album and my picture already started at page, say, 10), but it`s way better than Flickr. Third, and lastly, it`s about what I`m trying to accomplish here: don’t let the picture stand all by itself. Select some of your work, and write a bit about it. I saw this amazing photo in 500px of the Milky Way and the photographer wrote the story of how he got the picture. The result is that I`ve already seen thousands of pictures of the Milky Way, but his picture meant more because I`ve connected to his story. If you don`t like to write, connect it so some other form of craft.
Craft, by the way, is what differentiate the inspired well-made work from the trivial “look at me at the beach with some weird effects that came up when I pressed a button at my new app”. Craft and the growing appreciation for it in many fields of human life (from handmade beer to groceries) are the forces that will inexorably separate the frivolous photography from what we call photography, and even if we share the same space, no effort is going to be needed to set one apart from the other.