In the dark




I could be wrong about this but I think the internet and especially social media have come with an increased amount of self reflexiveness. I suppose if we were so inclined we could call this “navel gazing.” But clearly, there appears to be a lot of writing about social media themselves (just like debates about photography have increasingly moved towards talking about the business of photography - to the point where you can have a workshop about the business of photography without any photographers as presenters). The backlash seems inevitable: People pointing out that life without the internet and/or social media is entirely worthwhile. (more)

I had the opportunity to be in that situation for a while, when a snow storm knocked down many trees, which in turn then knocked down power lines. We were out of power for about two days, and we’re actually a bit lucky to have it back already (many other people in the area still have no power).

It’s one thing to wax about how you don’t really need the web when you have easy access to it - because, let’s face it, you’ll break down anyway, finding some excuse to look up something (or check email). It’s quite another thing not to have access to the web, regardless of whether you want to look up something or not. While I do a lot of work online and while for the most part I use electronic devices for that, I can’t and won’t pretend that not being able to check email or read blogs or check Twitter or whatever else was such a disaster. I don’t mean to say that the web is useless, because it clearly isn’t. But I do think that the hype about all things electronic and about the web seems to have got a bit out of hand.

And I will admit I am very worried about all that talk that seems to imply that what it takes to be a successful photographers is not whether or not you can take a good photograph, but instead whether or not you spend enough time using social media. I do understand the role of social media, and I do think that photographers need to aware of them and use them to some extent. But occasionally, I’m wondering whether the direction we’re moving into really is a good direction. I have the feeling that the situation we’re creating will actually make photography unsustainable for large numbers of practitioners. Is that what we want? I can only speak for myself and say that, no, that’s not what I want.

I had to think about this all a little not just because I didn’t have access to the web, but also because at the same time we had a visitor, Pete Brook off Prison Photography fame, currently on the road to talk to photographers, activists, and others about the prison system. For almost the entire time, we had no electricity, so we lit a fire (our apartment has a working fireplace) and simply chatted. And that’s really what this all is about, isn’t it?

If we want to stay with social media, what should matter is the “social” aspect: social media should serve us, instead of us becoming serfs of them. No amount of work and effort online will replace a real fireside chat, and no amount of work and effort online will replace a real community (instead of a virtual one).