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Is Social Media Destroying the Art of Photography?
Posted on February 6th 2013
Last time out I wrote an article about how to boost your business with the use of Instagram and that post got me thinking recently about something all together more fundamental – that being, the art of photography. Specifically, what impact is social media having on it?
The Canon’s gonna get it. Finally, a real KODAK moment.
Photography has always been fundamental to social media. Let’s take Facebook for a start, where in the beginning your profile picture was everything. ‘Here’s what I look like. Whaddya think?’ exclaimed a proud user’s carefully chosen avatar. (Although in most cases most people’s profile pictures should come with a disclaimer which says: Here’s what I DON’T look like. This photo took me ages to do).
But then photographs and social media took on a life of their own – people felt the need to document everything in film. So much so that a night out on the tiles almost didn’t really happen unless you woke up the next day to find you’d been tagged in 36 photos. Each one as similar and vapid as the other.
And there’s my point: photographs used to be something to cherish. A good piece of photography even more so. It seems people are no longer buying photo albums to house pictures of their children cross dressing because they want to ‘be a girl when they grow up.’ What next? Will parents be unable to embarrass their children by showing them photographs of them aged four dressed in drag? I certainly hope not.
And - what about bona fide photographers? Now, with Instagram, photography has become the actual medium of social communication. What’s more, Joe Bloggs has convinced himself photography is easy. Just take a photo, set it in sepia, blur a few bits here and there and whack on an edgy border. 58 likes? Why, you’re a modern day Ansel Adams.
You certainly are not.
But let’s rein it in a bit: social media won’t destroy the art of photography. But for me, social media is damaging my attitudes towards photographs. As I’ve said, the market is saturated with crappy photographs. And photographers are in agreement that social media is encouraging lazy photography. The ones I asked all said that the only defining aspect of an Instagram photograph is that it is an Instagram photograph. But do we need better policy makers? Or a better electorate? I’d say a combination of the two – social media needs to find a way to champion good photography and people need to upload fewer photographs of themselves stumbling home after a wet Wednesday night out.
In fact the decline in Facebook usage for example, estimated to be about to be about 8% in the last two years, could be down to this. The ‘Facebook Fatigue’ as it has been dubbed is perhaps because people are tired of the seemingly unending stream of bland, indulgent photography.
Also, is what’s happening to print photography social media’s fault? Print photography and print in general is unquestionably declining, though we can say that this is a response to the digital age in general and let social media off the hook here. However, social media as a platform means we don’t need to print things to show people our photographs. Though, I want people to print more photographs. More to the point photographs that mean something to them and not a photograph that is going to get lost amongst the 312 others in the Facebook album entitled ‘Turkey ‘09.’
It’s about now people always cite the fact that printer ink is pretty pricey and Facebook’s flipping free. This complaint is a little outdated, as places like Cartridge Shop now offer easily-affordable printer ink, but more importantly the freedom of Facebook is largely illusory. When all of your data is mined and used for advertising purposes, you're actually giving away rather a lot of privacy for this 'free' service.
So at the end of this long, admittedly self-indulgent, rant about social media and photography in general I want to know what people think. Is merely the platform that social media provides photography a good thing? Or do I sound like an old fart and you wouldn’t be surprised if my next three words were the phrase: back in my day...
Do let me know in the comments!