Family Values (Part 1, probably)

The ... industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images.
- Susan Sontag, On Photography

Such democratization's most-obvious expression, its adherents might say, is the photoblog. There's no obvious shortage of them —a href="http://www.photoblogs.org/" target="linkframe">photoblogs.org currently lists over 1100, with new ones being added four or five each day.

The aforementioned site bills itself as a guide to "high-quality photoblogs." Their definition of "high quality" leaves me skeptical. They cite four criteria in their FAQ:

  1. Photo Quality
  2. Interface
  3. Photo Freshness
  4. Photo Quantity

The sub-criterion for "quality" is simply stated "are the photos well done?" For the sake of democratic breadth (or was it really to patronize demographics?), they seem to be aiming awfully low.

The last two are more troublesome, because they imply that volume equates to quality. Personally, I'd rather find a website with two amazing photos than a website that floods the webspace with hundreds of repetetive and uninspired ones. Yet it's precisesly the latter type that seems to dominate, with "new photos every day" being held-aloft as the zenith of photographic excellence.

It's a disease that seems to have infected even sites like 21mm.net where there are genuinely good photos amid a mass of banal ones. Are the photobloggers simply unable to distinguish?

One might argue that this torrent of "unaffected" imagery is needed in order to create some as-yet-unnamed New Aesthetic — I find it more fashion statement than artistic movement. The photos I find in the top100 sites all seem to cave-into the pattern of "conform and confirm," either pounding on familiar safe notions (flowers and vividly-colored fruits, one-light nudes on black, raggedly texture-filled homeless people), or worse getting caught-up in the factory-manufactured signifiers of "quirky" and "independant" photography (toy cameras & lomos, cross-processing, rock bands).

I wonder if anyone has yet undertaken any kind of sustained, rigourous attempt to deconstruct the photoblogiverse.

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Link for thought: an old SP post by Rob Appleby.

Comments on "Family Values (Part 1, probably)"

courtney
March 31, 2003 10:10 AM

The accessibility of gear has made everyone a photographer, but this does not necessarily make artist... this is a mistake that many people make. As I have been learning more skills (and even learning history of photography), I feel humbled. I feel more informed.

It seems to me that everyone either needs to get those cliched images outta their system before they find their niche. I think I am still struggling with this photographic identity crisis.

 

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