Saturday, May 3, 2014

Can there be too much photography?

We have all seen it - the banal photos that people place on Facebook. Who wants to see yet another photograph of a plate of food or a blurry photograph of what is presumably some animal or other that the photographer thinks is really great? 
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister recently stated:
“What do you get out of all these pictures? What do you do with it? I mean, what exactly do you do with it? You took the picture, what happens now? 
“I don’t understand this new world, everybody’s taking pictures. When do they have time to live? They’re taking pictures all the time. Only taking pictures, that’s all they do. Pictures, pictures, pictures. 
I’m the only person here without all these electronic devices and I’m a free man. You’re all slaves! You’re slaves to your gadgets! You’re slaves!”
To an extent he's right. I laugh at the modern wedding photographer. Instead of taking maybe 6 rolls of 36 exposure film and producing an album with about 20 prints as the final product, they roll up with their digital SLRs and blaze away, taking photographs of everything they see, ending up with 2,000 or 3,000 snapshots of the wedding. None are composed all that well. None are of the standard of the professional photographer of decades past.

We have photographs daily appearing online which are utterly laughable. Who on earth wants to see a photo of a dead cockroach or a sandwich? Believe me, there are photographs of worse things than dead cockroaches or sandwiches online.
The Israeli PM has a definite point - people are obsessed with taking photographs. Technology has become the new drug - more addictive than crack cocaine. We are literally photographing anything and everything. There was a time when somebody that took a photograph every day or every hour of every day was unusual and we admired their work because it was so unusual. Now though, it's far too common.

It's not a case of saying "stop taking photographs". It's more a case of saying think before you photograph. Is this photograph worth taking and is it worth keeping? What are you going to do with the massive collection of photographs that are clogging up your hard drives, many of which you will never ever look at again?

I love photography. I take a camera everywhere - it's in my cellphone - but I don't take photographs all the time. I have a real camera too. I have taken maybe 10,000 photos with it over the past decade. I reckon on taking about 1,000 photos a year on average. By the time I retire in probably 20 - 30 years time, I will have half a million images to view.

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