I’ve lost count of the number of posts that I’ve started with the words “when I was at college”! Anyways, when I was at college there were basically two ways to get your photography seen, in a gallery and in printed material and that was about it. That’s how it was back then.
I used to live close to London and so I would visit many of the photography galleries, not just the major ones but lots of little independent ones too, some of which even hosted my work way back when. I have seen all sorts of strange exhibitions ranging from a series of family portraits, no bigger than your thumb, glued to sardine tins, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the photographer but it’s not important. I have seen an exhibition of Gerald Scarfe where he showed a series of about 10 – 15 instant Polaroid photographs of politicians and TV personalities that he had etched upon with something sharp to exaggerate their features. I have seen the photographic grandeur of Ansell Adams and other photographers from the Group f64. Photography by Cartier Bresson (and even met him!), Sebastião Salgado, Ernst Haas, Elliott Porter, loads of Magnum photographers… I could go on and not just in London; Bristol, Bath, Leeds, Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest, Vienna… all over the place in fact, oh and including Almería of course!
Whether I liked the photographs or not was secondary, mostly I did but it was the “occasion” that was important, it was seeing the photography in a gallery with its own sense of space. It was moving close to and standing back from the works. It was looking at the works in context and in relation to other works that you’d hoped had been chosen specifically to compliment. For me, there is a sense of awe when we see photography works in a gallery. It is a day out, we go for coffee or tea, on our way to the gallery we are filled with anticipation and sometimes excitement and we travel home full of varied thoughts and emotions.
Now let’s looks at printed materials. Of course there are the “coffee table” photography books of which I seem to have accumulated many over-the-years. The magazines dedicated to a specific subject or featuring a particular photographer and so on. For me these have less impact than visiting a gallery but never-the-less, we are in our own space and are looking at the work in a specifically designed context. Often these books, magazines, postcards, etc., were obtained from exhibitions that I had been to and so have a special meaning. It’s also nice to show others who may not have been to the exhibition but would still appreciate the work.
When I left college, the internet as we know it now, was in it’s infancy and I saw the opportunity of it being a good alternative place to host a photography exhibition; it was accessible to everyone and that is actually how I got into being an Internet Consultant (in short, but that’s another less interesting story).
But what of now? I look at some of these social media sites and particularly Facebook and I see brilliant photography submitted by friends of mine, professionals, people whose work I respect and all showing in the Facebook feed as a mish-mash of colours and pictures interspersed with people’s random thoughts and reposted “motivational” jpgs, videos of babies dancing and so on. Often just the sight of all of this on one page puts me off wanting to look in more detail. The only thing I can compare it to is listening to ALL your favourite songs at once, maybe even just ALL the songs ever! Then we “drill-down” and look at the photographs – now you have to bear in mind that some of these people have spent years studying and years following this developing their style and years of even more hard work following this promoting what they do and trying to reach people and for what? For the most part so people can simply click on the “Like” button. Of course it’s nice to have the “Like” button checked and to know that at least for a micro-second, someone was inspired enough to move their mouse! I am of course being a bit tongue-in-cheek but I’m sure you get where I’m coming from.
I like to read the comments people write about my photographs, some constructive some just confirming their action in pressing the “Like” button and some just just nice. Though I can’t help but feel that sometimes the impact of everybody’s photography is diluted by the sheer volume of everything that you’re presented with on first sight.
So what is the way forward? Well I like the blog format and find this comparable to the coffee-table book I mentioned earlier. The blog format allows us to at least present the photographs along with words in a context that we choose, hopefully well articulated but that doesn’t matter as much as getting across the message and passion for the subject.
But what of the alternatives to the blog format? I see an increase in the number of “pinboard” sites and these look good and offer a nice alternative to the blog. There are also the paper.li type sites which are essentially blogs but can be styled like a newspaper (as can some blogs). There are also the websites like TrekEarth, 500px and Flickr – see post Zen and the art of photography websites…
In conclusion, I think for me the blog is the tool that offers the best way to show off what we do, even if perhaps the readership isn’t as big as something like Facebook or MySpace… but perhaps this is a good thing.
What do YOU think?