the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

DON’T LIKE, LOOK

Looking at photographs is no less a skill than producing them.

Looking at photographs is no less a skill than producing them.

By MICHAEL PERKINS

I RECENTLY OVERHEARD A CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO YOUNG WOMEN which involved the viewing of one woman’s phone images, which she was sharing with her friend. Perhaps “sharing” is too generous a term, as the review of pictures, rendered with a cross-telephone swipe between each one, took approximately ten seconds, punctuated by the following remarks:

“That’s cool..”

THAT‘s cool…”

“That one’s REALLY cool…send it to me, willya?”

Love it…”

“Oh, too cute…”

Totally cool…”

The present age’s crushing overload of sensory information, including the billions of photographs snapped each day, has turned us into a nation of glimpsers. We sense images only fleetingly as they zoom past our window, each new one obliterating the one which preceded it, each one awaiting its own turn to be eclipsed by something newer, cooler, cuter. While the operative word for those viewing the world’s first photographs might have been: look. Now that word is simply: next. 

Whatever, dude. We don’t even care whether someone has examined, considered, or absorbed our photographs, as long as they issue a perfunctory, agreeable grunt of some sort between each one or reflexively (and meaninglessly) twitch a “like” click in the appropriate box. The sheer volume of things to be reviewed, and, God spare us, ruled on in some way has turned us into a race of card shufflers. There, we promise. We’ve processed your output and pronounced most of it passable.

Gee, thanks a lot. Thanks for nothing.

The ability to churn out photographs like potato chips certainly provides more opportunities for more people to produce something great. However, if our view of those scads of potential masterpieces is akin to watching bicycle spokes whiz by, then we cannot meet the photographer’s vision with any appreciative seeing of our own. Certainly, some photographs are not worthy of large audiences, but we also have become lousy audiences for the pictures that do deserve to be lingered over, thought about, treasured.

Do a favor for the people in your lives that take photographs. “Like” them a lot less. Look at them a lot more. There is no rush, except the one in your head. Appreciating beauty, or wonder, or art is not a homework assignment, to be tossed off on the way to the next, new thing. Give the pictures time to talk to you. Give yourself back the ear to hear.

Slow the bloody hell down.

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2 responses

  1. Well said, I for one can appreciate the photographers view. It takes more than a glance and it may require a revisit, to let it slowly sink in. Some images inspire me to try and recreate that image, maybe the same result or with my own view. Enjoyed the read or rant, whichever it is. Its true with the world of cell phones and every other sort of digital media. Good read and great shooting!!

    March 8, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    • Thank you so much for the thoughtful words. Getting a dialogue started is what excites me most about this project. I do believe that seeing is every bit the skill that photography itself is, and I hate to see that rushed out of existence.

      March 9, 2015 at 11:09 PM

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