What is photography?

I once said that photography is a universal language, to what someone replied: Is it?

I have thought about that ever since. I used to believe that photography could fix things, that it could convince people to do something, to care about someone. However, there’s so much more that I didn’t question. Photography can also be misleading, it can keep false ideas, it can objectify men and women. It’s used to destroy, humiliate, and it might not always be received in a positive way.

Photography is about accessibility too. Who has access to cameras? In the western world, anyone can own a camera, lots of people have a camera on their phone alone. Is everyone then, a photographer? Who has access to these images? How will these images be interpreted? Will these images matter?

 

*This photograph taken at FOAM museum in Amsterdam. This installation by Erik Kessels, it’s an attempt to show the incredible number of photos uploaded to the internet throughout 24 hours. Kessels printed each one of these photos, and piled them in a room.

The World Wide Web has allowed millions of people to share their lives, ideas, love and hatred equally, and just as many millions of pictures upload into the system regularly. Few months ago FOAM (http://www.foam.org) ran a whole issue of their magazine dedicated to answer questions about the future of photography. Expert on visualizing internet vernaculars and software dialects, Constant Dullaart says about the digital sharing of images: “It is important people know who is behind the system…On Facebook we store so many images but the company can change the rules any time it wants to.” Dullaart then adds, “we have a huge archive of images in the hands of other people whose purpose is to make a profit. What does that mean?”

While we share our own images on a daily basis, we are not conscious of how much we are affecting the power images used to have. Before the booming of internet, and software such as Photoshop, we used to believe that any image we landed our eyes on was real, and therefore true. The meaning of photos might be diminishing. Photography and Imaging professor at New York Tisch School of the Arts, Fred Ritchin, explained to FOAM on March 2011, “How do you provide a level of credibility and authenticity such that people will think about what can be done.” The way information is now presented as entertainment, makes if difficult to take serious images, seriously. How can we know when something is real, and when it isn’t. Will we care?

I still believe that an image has the potential to be powerful, lasting and meaningful. You can say more than you think with what you capture. When I look at my own photos, I ask myself: what am I trying to say? I want people to feel something, maybe to know that while we seem disconnected in a busy world, with different ideas and belief systems, there are things that connect us.

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