Trivialisation

In LensWork 119 Huntington Witherill discussed the explosion in the number of photographs being made since the advent of digital cameras, and he asked if this is good for photography as an artistic medium.

At what point will the number of pictures being taken become so overwhelming that the medium, itself, will be summarily dismissed as having become so thoroughly trivialized as to have rendered itself all but completely meaningless?

He then goes on to argue that photography is already being trivialised, but that this should not matter for an artist because art making is as much about the journey as it is the destination.

I’m not sure that I agree with his premiss that photography is being trivialised. People still find meaning in looking at photographs, and by definition that means those photographs are not trivial. And people still find meaning in making photographs, otherwise we would not be experiencing the explosion in numbers.

However, I do believe that the experience of ‘experiencing’ is being trivialised. Increasingly people make a photograph as a proxy for seeing. A few years ago I was stunned to see a tourist walking round an exhibition of Ancient Greek artefacts, pausing in front of each one only for just enough time to snap a picture of it, about five seconds. Now I realise that this is normal.

Originally published: September 27, 2015

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