Old School Survival

Saturday, 02 June 2018

I often wonder how some of my photographic heroes would’ve survived had Instagram existed when they were trying to make their name through producing a body of work. I haven’t resolved if they would’ve had an easy life and quicker success, or if they would’ve sunk under the pressure of playing the game of gaining likes through popularity.

I sit here flicking surrounded by books from my favourite photographers, Robert Frank, The Americans, Saul Leiter and Garry Winogrand. All largely now accepted to be masters of photography.

I am not convinced that you could pull any photograph from a book such as The Americans and post that image onto social media and gain any type of traction or positive outcome from the process. It raises interesting questions about the changing nature of how images and art are consumed today, an image may be elevated to a huge popularity and viewed by millions of people, but the notably success of that image may not be related to any artistic value it may or may not hold.

Being successful and creating quality work in today’s modern society appears to have been totally detached, one is no longer a function of the other. Nor does being successful representation validation and acceptance amongst your peers. This trend may be more reflective of deeper problems that currently exist in society today, a worrying trend where a person can stand up announce to a large built audience that they are an expert at something and the only thing that validates that statement is the accumulation of a large audience. It’s hard to exist in a world where everybody is proclaiming themselves to be a genius.

The nature of how an image is consumed is changing too, with millions of them produced each day within the blink of an eye, images are no longer lingered on, processed or decoded slowly. They are to be consumed quickly for instant gratification and then disposed of. If an image doesn’t immediately stand out and isn’t simple to read, it can fail on social media. A specific type of image has taken priority, as if no other type of images and expression existed in the world. A thoughtful image now has to beg for attention within a world of instant gratification, it’s more likely to get lost amongst the noise.

As a photographic artist you have only two choices, change your style and join in with the others, with the hopes of eventually becoming successful, or swing towards another extreme of developing the more unique aspects of your work, an arguably more difficult path to take.

However, being different may not be an advantageous route to take, often clichés tend to be more successful than original pieces of work; being too different risks being not understood.