Saturday, March 19, 2011

What's Next? A Search into the Future of Photography

Copied this section of a conversation between Charlotte Cotton (Curator and Department Head of Photographs at Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and Aaron Schuman on Foam's website - furthering the discussion around what photography is now - and possibly where its going. I felt that this idea of democratizing photography was worth bringing to the fore. 

CC: …I think that we're finally getting over the notion that photography is democratic.

AS: Could you explain why you think that photography is not democratic?

CC: One way that you could define photography in terms of democracy is that anyone can make a picture; billions are made every year, so it's clearly very easy, and I'm happy to admit that photography is very democratic in terms of its rendering.  But as a meaningful cultural force it should not be described as being democratic, because culture is a process of defining what's good - what's resonant - and that's not determined by a democratic or even an empirical system.  So I'm not happy with the idea that, just because it's easy to render a photographic image, anyone can make a great, culturally resonant photograph.  Those processes are not democratic; at some point there is an elitism involved, and I think that such elitism is only a problem if you think in terms of its high-art version, in which there are millions of reasons why you might not be allowed entry into that world.  But a group of people who all really get the same thing - whether its photography, or music, or skateboarding, or whatever form of collective culture - if that's elitist, it's in an entirely different league.  It's about self-elected elitism rather than the elitism of an establishment.

The point regarding elitism is an interesting one to me; one that I find personally challenging as I've come to feel that the language of photography and indeed of the image has become sullied since the advent of digital. There are simply too many pictures to sift, we need to filter and spend time in front of pictures again to begin to truly understand them or at the least, engage with them. If it is elitist to say that a picture should be considered, timely and should sit separated from the junkflow of modern media then I agree. I believe that we should be taking the time to edit our images and to be very selective in what we publish/exhibit. 
If we are to continue to produce pictures that can embody cultural values and suggest a certain thoughtfulness, or conceptual playfulness then restraint in publishing is key.

Enough ranting for now - I need coffee. What are your thoughts on this and have you been following the Foam 10th Anniversary: What's Next? A Search into the Future of Photography?