Conformity in Photography
Technology is great there is no denying that, we can share, post, comment, see and interact with the world on ways that ten years ago would have seemed laughable, however I foresee a problem: conformity
I try to not comment on other people projects in a negative manner on open forums, not sure it's a productive task and choose rather to concentrate on my own work (I am sure this is the case for many photographers) however yesterday I saw a video that frustrated me. Simple concept: a couple have deemed that tourists take terrible photos that fill our time lines/instagrams and they have set out to change that.
"#noshittyphotos" has decided that the photos you take are "shitty" and have walked around the hot spots in San Fran and NYC and spray painted on the floor the "best" spot for you to take the photo from. They have researched the "best" composition, angle, spot and shot for you to walk up to, stand on and point camera at. And here is my problem, this kind of thing isn't helping photography, this is an example of a slippery path to creating a selection of images that all look the same, it is saying "to hell with being creative, your photos are crap, this is how they should be taken". While i suspect it was a project done in fun, to me it reflects a wider problem in photography that started with Instagrams and the like:
See subject. Stand in same place. Aim at said topic. Click button. Upload. Become a drone.
Instagram quite often falls into the same trap, it is a great idea about teaching people great composition within a restricted space (a square) and then conforming it by adding pre made filters and making "everything look the same". I don't want to see that in photography, but that's where over the years it seems to be heading, pages and pages of internet pages filled with images that all look the same. Because we all now have access to photography at our finger tips 24/7 it's basic math: images are going to be replicated. Take a few minutes out and visit Flickr, search Big Ben or Tower Bridge and you will see hundreds of the same night shot with light trails, tourists and amateur photographers learning new skills will obviously gravitate toward these spots but sometimes I wonder if they are then (amateur photographers especially) progressing on past this? Trying their own thing? I see enough posts via Twitter to suggest that often they aren't. It is frustrating to see photos that look damn near identical all the time, the last three competitions I have entered have all included that Big Ben photo.
On a personal level I would rather see 10,000 "shitty" images where people have tried to see the spot different than a page of the same looking viewpoints. And yes it is easy to see an image online and then go to that spot, I am guilty of it myself, case in point a recent trip to Brighton's West Pier which has been shot millions of times and quite often with a long exposure however I still TRIED to do something that would make it stand out from the usual. I don't know if this is just an ageing photographer being 'stuffy' or that I have misread things but I do genuinely feel that creativity and creating something unique and interesting is slipping by and things like "stand here, point there, press click" doesn't help and makes me sad.
On a lighter note to end this post here is a compilation of Instagram's "proving" we all photograph the same things.