How The Internet Has Destroyed Our Grasp Of Great Photography

Though I’m old enough to remember when photos were viewed only in physical family albums, a slide show carousel in a makeshift home cinema, or art galleries and exhibitions, for most of my life I’ve been heartily immersed in the wonders of the internet.

The connectivity of the world wide web, email, and all its associated infrastructure has meant we can enjoy relationships with like minded souls across the breadth of the world in ways never before possible.

It’s a modern miracle.

But when it comes to photography, I’m starting to feel the internet has rather ruined us.

Or at least our perception of what makes a great photograph, and what doesn’t, and therefore how to try to judge and improve our own work – the photographs we choose to make, which we decide to keep, and which we share.

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I believe there are two factors, both inextricably linked.

First, due initially to digital cameras, then these being incorporated into our phones, anyone with a phone these days also has a pocket camera.

So today, everyone’s a photographer.

Second, the availability of the internet to so many of us, at speeds that make it incredibly easy to share our photographs in a matter of moments, whether it’s via email, or any number of blogs or social sharing sites and apps.

So today, everyone’s a publisher also.

On the surface, the benefits of this double democratisation of making and sharing our photographs is hard to argue against. It’s one of the great privileges of the free societies most of us here live in.

But on the flip side, there are now very few filters or barriers between what anyone and everyone chooses to take a picture of, and what they then share with the world.

Just because someone makes a photograph, it doesn’t mean it was worth making. Even in their own eyes.

Similarly, just because someone has published an image to the world, it doesn’t mean it was worth sharing.

This act itself proves nothing more than someone’s competence at tapping a couple of icons on their smartphone in the correct sequence. A monkey could be trained to do it. A savvy cat could probably figure it out for itself.

The end result is we’re now all adrift in an incomprehensibly vast ocean of imagery, trying desperately to swim, but steadily going under.

And most of it is not worth a second look, or indeed even a first look.

Combined with this, because virtually anyone is free to share their own photographs through their own chosen channels online, there’s no-one casting a critical eye, no-one curating or editing what’s best for wider viewing. That’s up to us as individual viewers.

So what do we do about it? How do we even begin to decide where and what to view of other people’s photographs?

And how do we ensure the standard of our own work doesn’t further dilute the already over saturated rivers of publicly shared images?

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Here’s a few things I’m trying.

I set out my intentions a few weeks back about reading more photography books and looking less online.

I’m currently reading The Unaltering Eye – Photographs from the National Gallery of Art, to further my education of some of the past masters of photography, and recently finished the excellent American Photographs by Walker Evans.

At least the images in books like these have reached me filtered through many decades of critical eyes who have chosen the very best work of the photographers featured – themselves some of the greatest ever to have picked up a camera.

Something else I’m doing in conjunction which is reaping great dividends, is lingering longer.

Online I might swipe through dozens of images in a minute. With these photography books I’m deliberately letting my gaze explore each photograph for a minute or more.

To give it a chance to wend its way into my subconscious, deeply beyond that mere superficial glance so many photographs are offered.

As I spoke about recently, I’ve pretty much abandoned social media.

Google+, Twitter and Instagram I’ve deleted. Flickr I keep for many reasons (few of them social!), then I have WordPress of course.

Cutting down on a number of these sites has also helped move away from the addictive, twitchy behaviour they encourage, turning us into edgy paranoid androids, constantly checking, swiping, refreshing, chasing the next “like”, view or hit…

It’s the opposite of that leisurely  lingering I mentioned above, which seems so much easier with a static book anyway.

We’ll see what the next few weeks bring and how I feel these changes are helping me regain an appreciation of genuinely inspiring and educational photography, and how it impacts my own photographs.

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How about you? How do you judge for yourself what’s any good as a photograph and what to aspire to? How much time do you spend seeking inspiring photography online? How much time do you spend reading photography books of the past masters?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and perspective below. (Remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

45 thoughts on “How The Internet Has Destroyed Our Grasp Of Great Photography”

  1. Well-said you.

    Tight, reasoned, stripped of ornament. Includes only what it needs to make the case and not a word more. And the case is very well made.

    It leaves nothing to argue against, though some few will arise purple-face onto their hind legs, and screaming like stallions in heat, make charges of elitism, because their instincts to the egalitarian and democratic, to inclusion, and to their sense of “fairness” will be offended. And they will be wrong.

    And their error and wrongness may be seen, now, in every public Internet photography forum and venue extant, because in those places, the most frequently-given advice to persons asking “How can I improve my photography?” is to study recognized great photos and their makers in books and galleries, and to take on thereby some sense of *why* it is good and how it was done. Composition. Light, shadow, tone; balance, graphic strength; content, purpose and intent.

    Just as one would with any other graphic art.

    1. Mmm. Got wrapped-up in an “amen” to the pulpit and appreciation of the writing, and failed to answer the question: how do you “know” and find good photos and photographers out there?

      There is firstly and always personal resonance: see it, take it in, figure out why you like it, and what continuation along the lineage of worth it carries. Seek out more that appeal in the same way or in allied or even new ways – books, galleries, online. Look, read, tediously wade and explore. Listen.

      And start the long slog.

      “Newer”, not-yet classic and emerging work of value is very difficult to find. Community can be critical: I am now going through the rich body produced by Wouter Brandsma, whom I’d never heard of, and would not have found but for a reference here. And I would not have found “here” but for a reference along a trail followed for months.

      1. Yes ultimately it doesn’t matter how revered a photographer is if we simply don’t much like their work. There is a hugely subjective element.

        I think for newer photographers (I would still include myself here) we still need guidance in finding what makes a an image work, and another not. Why we feel joyous looking at one picture and utterly indifferent about another.

        I love Wouter, I have featured him again in an upcoming post about photographers who inspire me. I’ve literally gone through every posts of his blog (a decade’s worth of posts!) in the last three or four months. Indeed a rich vein to mined there.

    2. Thank you William for your kind words and ongoing encouragement. This post was a lot longer but I was rambling and repeating myself so I stripped it back to the essentials – so I’m delighted that has come across!

      One major “problem” online too is when most people genuinely ask “how can I improve my photography?”, most will say “buy a better camera…” which is likely the complete opposite of what they really need…

  2. What is a good photograph….?

    That’s a very personal decision, so I can just answer for myself. A good photo is one that connects with me, with the things I like and which I want to see in pictures. That can be a scene, structures, light and even colors. It can most certainly be a good composition.

    Unfortunately, the internet-attention-span is often so short that we don’t really see a photo we’re looking at. And of course a photo on a screen can never replace the real thing.

    The recent trends on the net such as HDR and selfies are really bad and I don’t understand the hype they get. I support a worldwide ban of selfie-sticks! 😉

    1. “The recent trends on the net such as HDR…””

      Oh, yeah; amen. Even the mainstream media. In yesterday’s New York Times, the B&W photograph of James Comey accompanying the article about his book has been so over-boosted and amped in post that it looks like he’s wearing a rubber suit.

    2. Yeh there’s a major balance dilemma going on – we need to spend long enough one one of the very good photos to appreciate that it is very good (in our view) and work out why we like it so much, but spending that time on the 99 others we have to go through to get there destroys our enthusiasm to continue along the way!

  3. Hi Dan. More food for thought!
    I´ve got to admit, I spend an inordinate amount of time trawling the web. That said, It tends to be the work of the “masters” that I invariably return to for inspiration. As for books, I don´t own any books on photography, but I do browse for extended periods in bookshops.

    To be honest, I wouldn´t know a “great” photograph if it bit me on the bum. But I know what I like when I see it, whatever the trigger might be – the colours, a shape, the tones, the light… whatever.

    I cant say that I prefer a particular style of photography – although, I can say with some certainty that nowadays “street” , more often than not, leaves me completely cold. I´m sure this is due, in no small part, to the fact that every man (and woman) and their dog is a “street photographer”.

    Update: Thanks to your good self, I´m currently in the midst of a Spring clean. I´ve been consolidating and editing (for editing read deleting) gigabites of accumulated photos that, over the years, had been backed-up onto a number of HDs and, more recently, strewn across many cloud storage services – duplicates of duplicates of dupli…. you get the picture(!) So, I´ve pulled the plug on pCloud (and Instagram) and have moved completely to Google Photos. All this de-cluttering is quite liberating!

    All the best

    1. “To be honest, I wouldn´t know a “great” photograph if it bit me on the bum. But I know what I like when I see it, whatever the trigger might be…”

      Why, sure you would, Fat! The Jury, the “Academy” is you!

    2. A great photograph for any of us is one we want to keep looking at. It needn’t be any more sophisticated than that I think. The trouble is all those that aren’t that we have to slog through.

      Re street photography, check out Wouter Brandsma who embraces what he calls “stroll photography” – https://wouter28mm.wordpress.com

      It’s often wonderful and nothing like the bland and generic street stuff 99% of people make.

      Re your update, sounds great! I’m loving Google Photos too (and Google Play Music). I read a blog post earlier about someone else who set it up and found many benefits, not least if of all that they can now edit/delete from within Google Photos and use that as their definitive set of images, rather than have a different but partly overlapping set on a bunch of different devices.

      1. Hi Dan, I’ve been following Wouter for a few years (I found him via Patrick Let Roque’s blog). As you say, he has some wonderful images. I think it might have been Wouter who influenced (indirectly) my decision to buy the Ricoh GR.

        Yes, I’m gradually discovering that Google Photos (along with Snapseed) are about all I need.

        1. Wouter was the final nudge I needed to buy both a Ricoh RGD III and later a GX100. Well, I say “nudge”, based on the images he made with both cameras it was more like a massive shove!

          Ditto about Google Photos plus Snapseed. Very smooth, minimal and user friendly workflow.

  4. I think you have made some good points about the tension between the opportunities and pitfalls of the internet in regard to the practice and appreciation of photography. As you indicate, the easy availability of self-publishing leads to a torrent of images in which individual work often gets allocated a few seconds of attention. In such an environment people seem to feel that the only way to stand out from the crowd is to show work that is digitally manipulated to garish extremes.

    Some relief from the image avalanche can certainly be found in photography’s history between hard covers, but there are on line sources of relief as well. Blogs like yours give us the opportunity to better appreciate the work of individual artists in some depth. I also think the Flickr photo sharing model has something to offer to those who use it with some thoughtfulness. For instance, I like the fact that Flickr allows me to curate my own viewing experience by identifying individuals whose work I want to follow. When I go to my computer each morning and tune into the Flickr stream I am able to view the ten or twenty latest offerings from people I like. And, if I see something particularly outstanding, I can go to the individual’s stream to look at recent work in more depth.

    One of the dangers of relying on on line sources of any kind is that we are pushed toward giving our attention only to points of view which are familiar and agreeable. I think one way to get around that is provided in the Flickr groups. I spend some time daily looking through six or eight groups which focus on aspects of photography which are of interest to me and am able in that way to expose myself to the work of people I might not otherwise come across.

    Another strategy I have began to explore lately is to seek out more opportunities for face-to-face interactions with other local photographers who share my interest in film photography. I started up a Meet-Up schedule in Albuquerque recently for New Mexico Film Photographers and am pleased to see it generating some interest. It turns out that real life interactions have some richness which on line experience may never duplicate.

    1. Mike, thanks for your thoughtful replies.

      I agree about Flickr and how it lets us gather our favourite photographers (and groups) together in one stream and I used to use more. Like other places, I’ve just found the inspiration has dried up compared with a couple of years ago.

      Flickr groups can be great too, yes. In the past I’ve really only used them to explore particular cameras and/or lenses and what they’re capable of. But exploring groups based on themes and challenges rather than cameras and lenses is something I’ve not really done much of. As you say, you can discover people and then explore their other work directly on their personal photostream, when you might not have come across them directly.

      That’s really good to hear about setting up local groups. Again not something I’ve explored much because I guess I have preconceptions about what they’d be like – a bunch of gear obsessed old guys constantly comparing the size of their sensors and lenses… Another avenue for me to explore, and see if I’m right. 😀

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post and thought the images you included were wonderful .

    I’m not a very good photographer in either film or digital formats. I don’t have a smart phone but I do make self-portraits in an old chemical photobooth. A very hit and miss process. I collect vintage photos, mostly vernacular images. I consider that I have a good eye for a great photo through having studied design at university and having looked at thousands of images in photography books and online. I think I can recognise a great photo regardless of whether the subject matter appeals to me or not.

    I think it is important to take into consideration what purpose the photograph is serving (is it informative ie in a news setting, is it entertainment, is it for advertising or self aggrandisement etc?) before we judge it and also consider why we are looking at that particular image before we judge it. I would say the majority of images online serve the purpose for which they were made and that they are only as good, bad, worthy or unworthy etc in the context where they appear. The context should change the way we perceive and judge them.

    I wonder if the internet has truly destroyed our grasp of great photography as more and more people taking photos, discussing them and recognising that they need to improve them, is good for photography and good for an appreciation of what makes a great photo and in a broader sense, what makes good design.

    Your culling of some social media platforms and your study of photographers through books is inspiring. I’m off to find out more about Wouter Brandsma.

    1. Good to see you here Katherine. We spoke on here some time ago (months? years? My grasp of time is slippery!) then I haven’t seen you for a long time. Glad you’re back.

      Thanks for your kind words re my photos.

      There is that gap between understanding what makes a great photo and actually making one ourselves (talking about myself). It’s not enough to have and appreciate a delicious meal, and know exactly what the ingredients were. It’s a whole other challenge making something that tasty from those ingredients ourselves. Something greater than the sum of its parts.

      You are right about context, this is something I glossed over somewhat in my post. Most people probably don’t post images online thinking they’re amazing, or expecting great acclaim or even caring what others think – except those they directly shared with.

      Sometimes they/we might just want to share a picture of something we experienced, for example, without wanting or claiming it to be a photograph in the artistic sense at all, merely visual documentation of an object, a person, a place, a moment.

      About the internet being good for photography, the problem is that people look at photographers who have a lot of attention, followers etc, and think they are there because they make the best photographs. So they try to make their photographs the same.

      There’s a very famous contemporary “street photographer” who is also highly active online, and probably one of the most famous street photographers today because of that. But I can only recall one image that I found genuinely excellent, and the rest are generally mediocre and derivative. I feel that this individual’s ability to promote themselves hugely exceeds their pure talent as a photographer.

      Then you get this cycle, others see this photographer’s “fame” and try to follow/emulate. So then you get a mediocre and derivative copy of what was mediocre and derivative in the first place.

      It’s like having a book where the original is printed beautifully,, with the finest ink on high quality paper, then someone photocopies it, then someone else copies that, and on and on, and at the end you have such a watered down print quality., it has virtually no relation to the original version. If that makes sense!

      I’ve found – and still find – Wouter to be refreshing and inspiring and a humble voice. He’s been a very strong guiding force for me in the last six months or so. Let me know what you think.

      1. Hi Dan.

        Yes, I read your blog here and there but don’t generally comment. Thanks for your long reply and for remembering me!.

        Your comments on the emulation of that street photographer are really interesting.

        I try to return the favour if someone “likes” one of my blogposts ( emphasis on try) and sometimes find myself scrolling through post after post of things that it would turn my stomach to add even a humble “like” acknowledgement. Therefore I sometimes out of desperation, “like” a post that is not particularly great in words or images, just to be polite. If someone who is getting a lot of hits is speeding through all the hundreds of blog posts published each day, then there will be a lot of these reciprocal “likes” coming back to him/her regardless of the merits of their work. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here. Basically I’m saying that I can see how mediocrity can be encouraged very easily in the blogging world.

        What is new to me is that people are seeking to emulate these, so called, photographic success stories. Surely they know that the whole process of getting these likes is mostly dependent on the amount of time the blogger is putting into following and “liking” other people’s posts? It surprises me that some would try to emulate another’s work, that is given this “success” status, in such an artificial and superficial environment. It seems closely related to the mistrust of experts and the belief that an opinion is as valid as a fact, that is plaguing world politics at the moment.

        I can now really understand how the quality of photographic expression can be diluted through this process. I loved your photocopier analogy and also the delicious meal one BTW! 😊

        I had a look at Wouter’s portfolio and agree that his work is refreshing and humble. I will go back there again.

        1. Katherine, I think I decided long ago to not “like” or comment just for the sake of it, or just to return a favour. That’s precisely why there are thousands (millions?) of photographs and blog posts online that perhaps with a critical eye shouldn’t have seen the light of day, but someone did share them, and someone else, who was “liked” by that person the day before feels obliged to like them back.

          So you end up with the cyber equivalent of a room of people standing in a circle each patting the back of the one in front, and no-one being particular comfortably doing it. The sign on the door of this room might be “A Celebration Of Mediocrity”…

          It’s much the same on TV, far more seem to gain fame by being on reality TV shows than actually doing something worthwhile. It’s amazing that people appear on reality TV shows and when they put their name on screen and what they’re famous for, it says “Reality TV Star”!

          Maybe I’m more heartless, but with blogs and photos, if I don’t feel something is worth commenting on, I don’t. And I never “like”! What’s the point, it just feeds the whole disingenuousness of the system.

          Thanks re the analogies, and yes Wouter seems a rare jewel these days!

          1. Oh, yes! I do admit I’m one of the many who are part of the problem. Even since starting this conversation, I’ve been a lot more selective about my “likes” and will try to continue that change.

            You do have a great way with words and excellent sense of humour! I laughed out loud at your comment on reality TV stars. 😆

          2. Hi Katherine, yes I do think the whole overnight celebrity thing permeates TV and the internet, and often both for the same person. Like I was saying about a certain street photography who’s very prolific with his blog and social media, anyone can be “famous” if they spend enough time promoting themselves. Whether they have any talent in an artistic field is a different matter.

            I don’t know if it’s the same in Australia, but over here (in England) there are so many shows which just follow the lives of people only famous for the previous show that previously followed their life.

            If you want to see proper acting, watch a master actor via a classic movie, if you want to see proper photography, view the works of a master photographer.

  6. ‘I’m starting to feel the internet has rather ruined us’

    Maybe so, but I do feel with a lot of people, its time and the convenience when using the internet in our modern age. I personally do watch video documentary’s on past and present photographers and their work online. My employment makes me use this option. I am in the process of reading Ansel Adams ‘The Negative’ but again its online, if had time to sit down a read a book, I would. Trying to drive a 44 tonne articulated lorry and read a book is just not practical let alone legal!
    The internet for me is convenient, to use for reference, read or to view photographic images by real photographers, not to view these bloggers who post pictures of their everyday lifestyles, exotic locations or even what they’ve eaten yesterday.

    ‘Everyone is now a photographer’

    Mary Ellen Mark had a good answer to that quote;

    ”I don’t feel cell phones pictures are photography, its just visual social media, I think its completely different. Photography is much harder than that and takes years to develop a point of view and technique. I banned my students from using their phones, they have to use a real camera in my workshops”

    My view is, if it hasn’t got optical glass, shutter speeds and apertures, whatever its medium it uses, then it’s not photography.

    ‘everyone’s a publisher also’

    No not really, its only in cyber space, social writers, lost in a sea of forums, blog and chat posts, not by real authors with published works.

    I think we all need to knuckle down and start taking pictures to aspire too, move on and not worry about what the masses doing with their digitally manipulated images.

    1. “I think we all need to knuckle down and start taking pictures to aspire too…”

      Oh, well, you know, those who will aspire to better photography will do so (a’ la’ the old dictum: “If you’re a writer, then you will write.”).
      Most who make pictures with a phone or a camera won’t; they won’t get much better than they already are.

      That’s a matter of motivation and a goal to aspire to.

      Not to be putting words in Dan’s mouth (er, post) but part of the point is that absent exposure to good photography AND an explosion in photo-making devices means that social-network driven people will aspire to make good bar-hopping-with-pals shots, rather than a new ‘Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico’.
      Those are fun, of course, and part of social being, but a few of those folks may get frustrated that their rave-in-progress-music-venue pictures aren’t good. Younger people, having been weaned on technology as the instant solution to every task, will especially be thwarted and assume that the device they’re using is sub-par (aka, ‘Just Buy a Better Camera’).

      With no grounding in the imperatives of all, of any graphic art form, they will not understand that someone with a solid sense of composition, tone, light, form, and movement can make a genuine piece of art using a burnt stick on a concrete sidewalk.

      I can sympathize with Mary Ellen Mark’s statement – she is heavily *invested*, in every sense, in film-base photography, has reaped the rewards of her mastery, talent, and sheer work, and that is what she is teaching. But we have all seen – are now seeing – excellent work done with smartphones: an image is an image is an image, by whatever means.

      1. William, I agree, I think Mary Ellen Mark must be talking about aspects you’d be better off studying via a film camera, like the effect of aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc on the images you can make.

        Agree with your last line – impressive work is done with all manner of devices. As long as it can make pictures, the rest is up to the photographer.

        Reminds me of that series of Digital Rev videos where they took a pro photographer and gave them a very cheap and/or basic camera to try to get a decent image from. They always do, because their talent and experience and understanding of the basics enables them to create something interesting whatever the camera/device.

    2. Hi Martin, thanks for your thoughts.

      I didn’t quite follow about your employment and books. If you’re driving a truck, surely you can’t read anything, it’s irrelevant whether it’s on a screen or in a book?

      I’m coming around to a similar view to you in how I use the internet, ie more as a way to research some of the photography greats, rather than try to find and follow new/current photographers, which most of the time just seems too daunting to attempt.

      I disagree about cell/mobile/smart phones. Any that can make an image is a camera in my eyes, whether it’s a pinhole camera made with a shoebox, a classic SLR, a kid’s digital camera, a smartphone or a cutting edge digital camera. Especially with the increasing technology that’s in smart phones these days – as good as and sometimes superior to other digital cameras. I think you can learn about light and composition with virtually any camera.

      If you want to learn about aperture, shutter speeds etc, then a smart phone isn’t a good choice, you’d be better picking up an old manual film camera. Maybe that was Mary Ellen Mark’s point?

      Thoroughly agree about the last point, and I think most if not all of us reading and commenting here are doing (and trying to do) just that.

      1. I was being facetious when I said about driving while reading a book.
        With the hours I work there just not enough time in the day, so the Internet has made it easier for me. What little free time I get can be used for shooting, when the wife allows.

    3. Martin, you said – “I personally do watch video documentary’s on past and present photographers and their work online. My employment makes me use this option.” If you’re watching something online via a phone or iPad or whatever, can’t you just spend that same time to look at books instead? I didn’t think you’d be able to do either while driving, but if you have time to read/watch online, surely you can use the same time to read?

      Do you keep a camera with you on the road? Just wondering if there are opportunities when you’re pulled up in a layby or something to take the occasional shot too?

      1. Working permanent nights (my choice I know, less traffic!) and places I go to banning the use of cameras, and the amount I have to carry in my bag now (I never have the same lorry each night) the phone is just practical for me.
        If I get back early enough I do take out the dog for a walk in the morning, camera in hand.

  7. Wow, I know who I’ll be employing to write my comments from now on…

    ”Oh, well, you know, those who will aspire to better photography will do so.”

    I thought that’s what we were all trying to achieve.

    1. Ah, *we* are.
      Yet most who own an image-making device will not: the motivation/barking-up-the-new-gear-tree/culture of throwaway shots thing.

      1. Maybe this comes down to intention, and where the person using the device wants the intention and effort to be.

        We might call someone a photographer if, regardless of camera/device, they seek to make memorable images by understanding both the fundamentals of photography, and the functions of their chosen camera/device to make this happen consistently.

        Someone who just wants to pick up the latest camera(phone) and it help them make impressive images with as little effort and understanding as possible on their part we might not consider a photographer in the same sense. Though they may (and maybe purely by chance, like those monkeys randomly composing Shakespeare) eventually once in a while come up with an interesting image.

        I would say all of us here are most definitely in the former photographer camp.

  8. I agree and have commented on this subject before. The internet is flooded with mediocre images that may or may not have value and it is down mostly to popularity rather than quality that they get raised to greatness. Trying to separate the wheat from the chaff is very difficult and the only way I see is to look at more serious and well respected sites that have a higher quality, rather than quantity, of members.
    And as you say how do we as creators find examples of great works to help us improve and aspire to? I read books also and visit exhibitions when I can. I have also been toying with attending some sort of course or workshop to expose myself to other creators and mentors.
    Of course the problem here is that by loking at books and exhibitions of ‘great’ photographers we are relying on someone else to tell us what is good; and is that right? The alternate view to the above perhaps is that Art after all is subjective and also somewhat fashion-led. What was once considered great and valuable is perhaps now not so, and what was once not art, now is. Art and beauty are in the eye of the beholder and who are we (or they) to say whether something is good or not; is more whether you like it? Art’s quality is not something that can be calculated or plotted?
    The rules that had to be adhered to to ensure a good image (whether still or video) have been broken so many times now that they are barely rules any more and merely suggested ways of thinking and a creative choice.

    I think that exposing yourself to as many examples of other peoples works historical or modern is a good thing and can only expand your own view on where your photography should go. As you say, taking time to really look at an image is important to fully grasp it’s intricacies and I would suggest that perhaps many apps and websites don’t promote that kind of approach.

    Finding an image that pleases you and then studying it to try to understand why you like it and then applying that to your own work is probably the best that any of us can do

    1. All a very sound approach SF, and much what I’m trying to do going forward.

      I’m currently looking at William Eggleston, and his debut exhibition went down very badly at the time (mostly as it was colour images of every day subjects at a time when any “serious” photographer was using b/w) but now is viewed very highly by many, and seen as groundbreaking.

      So I think if we look back decades, there’s enough time passed to get beyond any current trends or fashions and judge the work on its own merit.

      Like you say, ultimately any art is subjective though, and just because an artist is generally revered does not mean you or I will both love him/her equally – or at all. But following the general consensus of the photographers at least gives us a strong starting point for our explorations and is much more beneficial than trawling through endless Instagram/Facebook/Flickr pages.

      1. I wanted an interview with Joel Meyerowitz another colour shooter in a genre dominated by B&W; he said some things that I am now thinking hard about. Essentially, he was saying as a photographer you can take a photo and capture a thing that you see effectively making a copy of it but what he is interested in and what he believes is important is that we should be looking for are the inconspicuous relationships between things. It struck a cord with me and now I am contemplating

        1. Yes I love statements like this that get us thinking. As photographers, with any one photograph we can influence the viewer into what they might feel the relationship between objects is. By what else we include in the scene or not, how close we take the photograph, the angle and perspective that can give a perceived superiority in the frame to one object over another. We can do so much in a single image!

  9. Same to me … but better late than never. An interesting post with interesting comments … wow … I need more time to read through all of them.

    You made me curious about these books and I ordered some … as I’m one of those guys who still know how books look like, how books smell and how to read them 😉

    Even if I do not spend too much time viewing pictures online, I immediately noticed that I scan the pictures as I do online … tac, tac, tac … I like, … I don’t like … I like, … I don’t like … and this is an important point you mentioned, as you need to have one page opened and keep it open for some time so that the picture can unfold its secrets/charm/impression.

    1. Funny what you say about the comments. My next post is about this!

      I went into a bookshop the other day, and yes being surrounding by walls of paper, the quietness and the scent is all very pleasurable. You don’t get this from a Kindle!

      I think you’re spot on with how we scan online. This is a wider reaching behaviour that I also have an upcoming post about…

      Love what you said at the end – “so that the picture can unfold its secrets/charm/impression”… Completely agree we need to give images time to allow this.

  10. I know a but late… hey ho… 🙂

    In any act, the primary intention of him who acts (or creates) is to reveal his own image – Dante

    for me, that says it ALL!
    How do I rate an image?
    Well, simply put, do I learn something about the creator? Does the artist’s ‘essence’ dwell in the artwork? Can I see a progression, a journey? If I don’t see/feel the person in the work, I can’t connect with the work.

    The internet has given us an amazing opportunity to connect with people. That does sound a bit counter-intuitive with all the hullabaloo around the social media landscape as it is at the moment, and the current zeitgeist. But we can connect on a personal level with just about anyone, and from just about anywhere. Forget about irritating aspects of life online. Move past all the nonsense. Make a real connection with someone with whom you feel you might share something. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Everyone started somewhere…. BUT above all else, BE HONEST! Be truthful. THAT outshines any talent, technique, equipment, or numbers of followers.

    For me, great art is an honest body of work. And I have to know something about the creator. Whether I can make that personal contact, or just take the time to learn about the artist’s journey. When you follow in their footsteps, you don’t pay any attention to opinions other than your own. And by following, I don’t mean copying. Follow, and somewhere up ahead you will find your path veers off to one side or the other. But never stop communicating and sharing. You will find images that speak to you, and which will enrich your life, and hopeful encourage you to create your own story documenting your own journey.

  11. ‘Bringing out the detail’ is a term that pertains to shadows and highlights, and is from the good ol’ days of prints. Well, sometimes not so OLD 😉

    I used to enjoy an almost graphic feel to my images. In the when I salivated over Moriyama and Araki. But when I starting wet printing, I discovered that I was looking for a more well-balanced image.

    And also herein lies my main issue with online viewing… Everyone’s monitor is different. You created this image with certain tonal values, and how you wanted to interrupt the scene. If my monitor is not calibrated the same as yours, I have no chance of seeing the image as you intended me to.

    And herein lies the main advantage of making hard copies… You see EXACTLY what I want to show you.

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