the uncommon man
From Robert Wright’s blog:
I was visiting home last week and on the way back the rental car had XM satellite radio to keep me company, so perversely I listened to the comedy channel for 8 straight hours. I do not recommend it. But I realized how similar the experience was to looking at photography and blogs on the net. How is it possible to make comedy unfunny? By massing it together in a continuous stream you realize that very few people have anything truly funny or new to say, and in fact will repeat themselves over and over in the same genres and topics. It is the effect of consumerism, the construction of a world dedicated to making it easy to consume things.
I think what you are seeing is a generational thing amplified by the www. In the development of a photographer or artist there are stages that you inevitably go through, fascinations, being naive to certain things, unaware of what has come before, excitements at the discovery of an artist previously unknown to you, all of these things from the perspective of someone starting out are very different experiences compared to someone who is battling mid-career issues, etc. There are commonalities, like finding inspiration, finding places to show, sharing experiences.
But it is this particular time, the confluence of technologies of digital photography, the www for sharing, a boom in consumer credit allowing amateurs to purchase gear that only professionals would have bothered with in the analogue days, all of this has brought an unprecedented number of photographers into the arena at exactly the same time and often at the same phase, that early discovery phase that used to go by fairly unnoticed in art schools around the country. And asking the same questions over and over. Of course there is nothing wrong with this per se, except as it has manifested across blogs and the www. So you see the consequences, a great deal of burnout, bad work, and this somewhat toxic flood of imagery.
Charlie Rose was interviewing George Will last night and they were discussing the Barack Obama nomination, and that task ahead for him. The charge has been that he cannot connect because of his “elitism” and Will neatly deconstructed that. He said in politics it is never the question that the elites rule the masses, but it is the question of “which elites” will rule. You hear so much talk about relating to the “common man” and often politicians like to portray themselves as the “common man” as much as possible. Well, I agree with Will here, I want an “uncommon man” as a leader.
Similar goes for photography, photography may have it’s common charms, but I really don’t need a flood of common imagery. It is the uncommon we need more of.