6 minute read
September 8, 2015
We use social media as a way to advertise and store examples of our art, and basically that’s the only reason I (for one) use things like Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. Except in some cases for sharing things with family members, I think these platforms are a huge waste of time and a misplacement of creativity because they tend to provide pointless and uneducated (read: easy) feedback. After all, that’s why these environments were created, to provide a social connection that will keep you coming back so the sites can somehow monetize your visits. That’s what it’s all about, and hopefully you never forget it.
Both Myesha and I basically feel the same way, although I am probably more cynical about it. For example, we both resisted using Instagram until early this year and only for the particular purpose of reaching an audience for business. A while back I deleted my Facebookaccount for about a year, and later recreated a profile because it was just too easy to share things with family members. Until I moved to Houston a few years ago I think I had 40 “friends”, and even now less than 100. Yes, I’m pretty cynical.
So you might ask why I hate social media. If you haven’t read other posts on this blog you might not have seen my other related rants about what I think is the devaluation of photography through the volume of snapshots being created by seemingly everyone in the universe. I think the advent of cellphone cameras is part of this, but honestly the ignorance only spreads when coupled with easy internet presentation. Nowadays anyone can shoot a photo with a phone, then they can upload it to some place like Instagram where they get 1000 likes which supposedly prove the photo is good (I’m being facetious). This kind of baseless feedback is totally useless in my mind, just as useless as the plethora of thoughtless photos being posted. I won’t provide examples because you can go look at Instagram and find perfectly worthless images that have 10,000 likes attached and also find genuinely good ones with 5. Likes are meaningless, there isn’t much debate on that topic.
A "like" is a marketing tool for social media, it is Instagram and Facebook oxygen, and that’s it.
My problem with all the social media is the lack of thought given about the purpose of a “like”, and I started thinking about this because of my research on Bill Eggleston. In case you don’t know, Eggleston is famous for his color images of mundane everyday things. I encourage you to go and read more about his work because if you don’t you won’t understand why it’s important: his photos appear to be snapshots of totally meaningless subjects. If you saw his images mixed together with common shots on Instagram you would probably scroll right by them.
The real point of this post is thoughtlessness and lack of understanding in photography, not that it’s unique there — and I’m sure this has been discussed throughout the history of the art. When I’ve written about this before, I’m normally talking about myself but this time I rail on social media. It just seems like no one really knows what makes a good image or how to create one, and it seems as though the thoughtless “like” is becoming the currency of greatness in social media. At the end of the day, the “like” is a marketing tool for social media, it is Instagram and Facebook oxygen and that’s it. Without a like no one would ever commit to social media profiles because there would be no payback, and I think that’s what all these people forget. Valuation by “likes” is by all definitions pointless, and evaluating an image this way would be like saying it is great simply because its creator breathes air.
It seems like so many are looking for edgy, ‘important’ subjects and I think this is due to the want of publicity in a market that will too easily accept poor work because it has been numbed by the volume of available images.
On the other side of this rant is Eggleston and his work. I’m totally fascinated by his images because his use of color and common subjects. (go look at more of his images after you finish this!) seeing his work reminds me of articles I’ve read about ‘photographers’ trying to find increasingly important subjects or more incredible landscapes, or whatever - the evolution of subject is what I mean. That kind of pursuit is totally pointless if you ask me. I think part of it is related to commercialism and the need to sell to a very diverse and saturated market and I get that, but a lot of this is also related to the plethora of pointless images floating around, and quite honestly the laziness of many viewers. Facebook sharing multiplies the exposure to things such as spontaneous images of styrofoam dinner plates and adorable kittens, and Instagram encourages application of filters to every uploaded image… is that what makes images better? Even sites like flickr and 500px are filled with mediocre, overwrought images, the only difference being they are worked on ‘harder’ by producers — and this is where the professionals are supposedly hanging out? Aside from all the mindlessness and processing of photos, it seems like so many are looking for edgy, ‘important’ subjects for images, never being satisfied with the simplistic, and I think a lot of this is due to the want of attention or publicity in a market that will too easily accept poor work because it has been numbed by the volume of available images.
Anyway, back to Eggleston. I did a little reading about reactions to his images because I find interesting the dismissal of his work. It seems like so few understand or want to appreciate why his images are good, maybe in part because of the subject matter but I think it’s because many are just too lazy to learn and appreciate his work and the like. To me he proves you don’t have to seek out perfect conditions or grave subjects. His images are the opposite of what I think Instagram and other social platforms have become, and they make me want to use social media less.
Seeing Eggleston’s work was good provocation and a nice validation of my thoughts. A while back, with no knowledge of who Eggleston is, I was thinking the same about some common things around one of my childhood homes. Below are a few images from my first experiment in banality, ca. 2013 - more to come later.