How social media has changed the way images are viewed

That infamous dress. Credit to whoever it was who originally shot the image.

It seems that the more images are in the publicly visible, the less time and attention any one individual image receives on average. This makes sense, given that we’re continually being bombarded by media and there’s a finite amount of time for consuming that media. On the other hand, we’ve got a disproportionate amount of attention being given to certain images – that blue/white/gold dress meme above being a good example*. These images are not necessarily deserving of that disproportionate attention, either. I have a theory about both why this is, and why despite the world becoming an even more visual place – overall quality of images has gone down, and with it the ability to distinguish between chocolate and pig poo.

The prominence of an image these days has almost nothing to do with its aesthetic, artistic or technical merit. The former requires somebody to find that the composition and elements within the image move them in a way that evokes positive emotion, or some form of affection with or affinity for the visual presentation (though not necessarily the subject matter). You have to like the image at a more than superficial level. For it to have artistic merit – and without getting down the dangerous path of addressing ‘what is art?’ – I think we can agree that the image must contain a message beyond the literal visual interpretation of the subjects portrayed. And for technical merit, it has to be executed to at least a reasonable degree of proficiency.

Instead, images that become popular – i.e. seen by a wide audience – tend to fall into one or both of two categories. Firstly, they’re sensationalised generally because of content or subject. Secondly, they get circulated by ‘influencers’ – people who tell a whole bunch of other people to look at something they determine is attention-worthy. In effect, the influencers exert some degree of control over what is interpreted as meritocratic and deserving of consideration because their audience has agreed to be presented with and pay attention to (mostly) what the influencer presents them. This is both exclusive and heavily biased: if multiple influencers are showing you the same image, then it’s much more likely that the average member of the public is just going to defer to the opinion of the influencer.

Enter that blue dress. It could really be any one of several scenarios: a) bad white balance; b) different ambient light temperature between foreground and background; c) a really strange coloured object. There’s no way to know for sure, nor does it matter. The image is not interesting for any other reason than people are being presented – and forced to look at – a situation which they might not have encountered or paid any attention to. Of course, we can argue that this is the purpose of photography: to record and show something otherwise ignored or unseen. What’s shifting is that the popular definition of ‘worthy of attention’ is subject-driven, opinion leader-driven, and almost never cares for aesthetics.

This is slightly strange, because you’d think that given the reduction in average attention span per image, we’d see those really excellent images – the kind that draw you in at first glance or in small size, and reward with meaning, detail and immersiveness on further viewing – stand out. But I suspect that kind of thing makes the average audience feel inadequate and unhappy, and as a result, gets little traction because it’s not the kind of emotion that provokes return visitors: cue the averaging down. On the whole, there’s more photography. It’s not necessarily better or prettier, but more people are doing it – and want to feel like they too can be ‘photographers’. Our job as commercial photographers has actually become doubly difficult: there are more providers of service, and less ability amongst clientele to discriminate between those providers. In other words, being better in the conventional understanding isn’t better for business.

In practical terms, we have a few things to balance out: uniqueness and distinctiveness of one’s style; ability to consistently produce the desired result; and ability to gain and hold the attention of the audience. There’s also the ability to open and sell, and taken together, that’s basically commercial photography in a nutshell. The only bits that I find conflicting are the uniqueness and holding audience attention requirements: it’s a chicken and egg, and one dictates the other to some degree. Whenever there’s been a shift in mass styles of photographic presentation, it’s never been an overnight sea change: it’s usually just a bit more of X or Y filter that slowly changes into 100% filter over the course of a few months. It’s the ‘california summer’ look in fashion; the HDR B&W documentary; pick any other trend. The global changes are faster, of course, since the speed of propagation of information is pretty much instant in the internet age.

Photography is art and art is subjective. Popularity isn’t dictated so much by merit – which is again relative and subjective – or the importance or subtlety of one’s ideas. The desire to stick to one’s own strict definition and interpretation of what an image should be is very, very strong, and for your own work – the images that you make purely for yourself and not to satisfy (or even show) anybody else – I think that remains the only way to be truly happy with one’s own work. But I’m increasingly asking myself – why fight the tide elsewhere? The success of a commercial image, or commercial art – especially in the immediate term – is determined by the mass audience, which is in turn determined by an influential few. But again, chicken and egg. Few are powerful or confident enough to risk audience (and income) by straying too far away from public opinion, making the whole thing self-reinforcing. ‘Good’, ‘bad’ and ‘successful’ are all relative: the real question is, who are we trying to please with our images? MT


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  1. Curious as to why the concept of propaganda & commerce were left out of this thoughtful essay. That social media does exist at the intersection (certainly after recent events/election) of those two things. We can hardly look around that we aren’t talking about “fake news” and while the dress was (or is) deemed “news worthy” it sets that really low bar, that distracting kind of tabloid news. ‘Everybody says…” News, the “reactions” on social media as news. That it is newsworthy simply because people had a reaction to it.

    Having written about a particular iteration of this, and how this meme was used by a non-profit in South Africa, and went viral, but was a much more uncomfortable subject, it got very little attention, or didn’t become “news worthy” globally. That social media makes money, and the news certainly exploits these stories because they are “free.” Certainly not of Intellectual Property or in their creative efforts (again subjectively viewed as being hard or easy).

    That while we can view this through the lens of art, or its merits, which you do a great job at. This certainly qualify that by “average” times without considering the median. Or the immersion in, and increasing times spent on social media. While for older people or younger this is becoming not a place for art, and has historically (at least what is measured by pollsters) a place where they get their news. Which speaks very specifically to the increasing of an attention span, in shorter bursts, less nuance & complexity, but higher & faster processing. To wit, we view social media more as Newspapers/TV of old, and less a place for “art” (unless you are an artist).

    So this incident is a news story, or was. Which makes it more likely to fall into a fake/low-info/tabloid variety not even approaching art or any of the tertiary tenets. It is more indicative, as the “Influencers” are of wielding both propaganda powers, than propagating art. They are in an Attention Economy the linchpin in whether something blows up and is viral. That many people (the news orgs, etc…) all got paid while airing / publishing this and were able to not pay the subject of it, because of “ethics.”

    That this has become our standard operating practice, along with the do more, get paid less, has a downward push on payment to those that have worked, that will work, in art (esp commercial). That those who used to work for these powers, now get paid nothing because social media, as evidenced by this phenomenon, provides free content.

    That influence or force seems more detrimental to art as a whole.

    • “Curious as to why the concept of propaganda & commerce were left out of this thoughtful essay”

      Not by deliberate avoidance, I can assure you. On one hand, the obviously commercial stuff doesn’t really need much discussion. The grey are of this image itself – to be honest, I have no idea how to handle or quantify or even where to begin. Somebody is obviously deriving some value, but it’s probably in the form of tangential attention to the main site and then maybe some click throughs – but that in itself still doesn’t really create quantifiable value, either.

      “So this incident is a news story, or was. Which makes it more likely to fall into a fake/low-info/tabloid variety not even approaching art or any of the tertiary tenets.”
      Yes: but your earlier point about social media supplanting news for most applies, too: and when you’re in an attention economy, then you’re back to needing visibility to get anywhere further. The best pieces of art have no value without being seen by the right audience. And it’s becoming harder and harder to reach that audience when they’re already saturated by this kind of stuff.

      There’s definitely a difference between commercial art and true art, I think; the first is created with/for an audience in mind, even if that’s curated by the galleries etc. The second, we make because we have a drive to do so we can’t ignore.

      • The thing is, in the age of ‘Big Data’ it is all measurable. The clicks etc…are quantifiable, but harder to qualify. Sociology has let them down (I’m trying to rectify that) and your comments seemed to qualify them in a rather narrow way. Your main point about the barrage of images is well made, but poorly supported. The Ad Men of Madison Avenue didn’t go out of business after plastering the entire world in images, making them pop up everywhere. Now instead we can reach in our pocket, or pull the phone off of our nightstand in the comfort of our bed, and feel that all-pervasive reach of these images. That has changed us, the dialogue, the impact, and reach. It has changed art as well.

        What my comments were aimed at, in your original piece was semiotically/symbolically your central point, but then also in my version of “medium is the message” way paying tribute to the fact that it is all Post-Emotional-Performative-Social Media. That while you focus on the original locus, it spread out in many ways, is still invoked mimetically, and the process repeated. Which is what I understood you to be focusing on. That even now it is a sort of touchstone to the way we all see things differently, noting the election results as a ripped-from-the-headlines way of concretely illustrating that very concept.

        It is all subjective, immeasurable, and yet as we grapple with it – and I’ve done just that. Images like Bree Newsome at the top of that flagpole, Devin Allen’s Baltimore Uprising Photo on the cover of Time, and others spring to mind. Yet, as you note, it is harder, but that they still happen. As we all become on-the-street-photo-journalists, and take in life or capture its meaning (both artistically and in a propaganda sense) we have come to that point, which reminds me of Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ where she tries to sociologically compare Americans to Japanese Tourists she observed.

        That instead of being “in the moment” and experiencing it, we have all become (and in most cases poorly-so) trained to capture these things like a war reporter on the front lines of our lives. That is a major seismic shift. The byproduct being things like #TheDress rising or becoming a sensation. That we are (both good and bad) suddenly evaluating or refining our viewing habits, our sharing spaces, and national/global conversations around what is art.

        In the 50s, the height of white supremacy as a main goal of Madison Avenue, you still had Gordon Parks working, and many other tremendous people creating both documentary and photojournalistic works of art. That in the vein of history we washed away all the snapshots that were taken by amateurs. They now find those poor quality things and post them on where in that context of nostalgia it has meaning.

        So if great art (subjectively viewed/accorded) is the capturing of a resonant moment, aren’t these low-quality versions, like that dress, saying something about the culture, but aren’t they also ways in which even low-art, can become high art. Damien Hurst stole pictures off Instagram and sold them…that is more indicative than this dress of how we view photography and the changing landscape, to my mind. That conceptually he foregrounded these amateurs, their aesthetic, as having artistic value.

        It also indicates wholly how with very little effort, no payment for Intellectual Property or creative endeavors, that he made out handsomely. A sign of the times. That by “devaluing” it, making it inherently worthless that systemically they can pay artists less, or nothing and still make the same profit, or more.

        (PS: Sorry to have taken up so much space, but it is, as I noted something I’ve devoted a lot of thought to, and really do enjoy and appreciate what you wrote. Even as we come at this subject from two different angles. Also those aren’t scare quote but air quotes I’m invoking)

        • It used to be simpler, I think: images were commissioned and paid for and then plastered. You could make a decent living off doing it quite easily. That simply isn’t the case anymore since a lot of the low end and midrange image production is now done for free, by an inconsistent mass army of people who might do one or two here and there and a whole bunch of low-level social influencing via social media – we’ve been lead to believe there’s kudos and status for the creators but no dollar value (clearly untrue, but try undoing that perception).

          “That instead of being “in the moment” and experiencing it, we have all become (and in most cases poorly-so) trained to capture these things like a war reporter on the front lines of our lives. That is a major seismic shift.”
          Agreed, and a prime example is at every restaurant in Asia where somebody (or everybody) at the table photographs their meal before eating it and shares it with anybody and everybody they know. Free advertising for the restaurant!

          “In the 50s, the height of white supremacy as a main goal of Madison Avenue, you still had Gordon Parks working, and many other tremendous people creating both documentary and photojournalistic works of art. “
          There are still companies commissioning this kind of thing – I have a few clients who do just that – but on the whole, even in the last few years, it’s decreasing dramatically. I suspect it’s because of two things: the perceived investment is too high for something that might be viewed effectively disposably or very briefly, and you’ve then go to compete against sheer volume (which is the cause of the first thing).

          “Sorry to have taken up so much space…”
          Don’t be. It’s these kinds of comments and thoughts that are very valuable in providing an alternative point of view – and also confirming it isn’t just me who’s gone mad, or seeing the emperors’ new clothes being not exactly profitable for those producing them. “Purveyor to kings” is great to have on the resume, but when the kings expect it for free and discard after one wearing in favour of The Next Best Thing, it isn’t exactly going to keep anybody in business. 🙂

          The real question is what those of us in the business are going to do about it in the long run: and the only answer I can think of is keep doing what we’re doing, keep pushing, and hopefully find some way of demonstrating value to the client that can’t be easily replicated. The days of a basic value to the production of an image are gone simply because it’s become so much easier to make a ‘good enough’ image and because the level defining ‘good enough’ has slid, too.

          • I could write 6 essays in here about “Influencers” and how the people we’ve been discussing above (the ones who pay/commission them or USE them really for reach) in detail. I’d be repeating myself. The push now, the new term is “micro-Influencers” which is why when I read this, I’d had such a reaction. The difference being (as their Big Data has shown them) between quantity & quality.

            It isn’t the big viral machines (Influencers Major) that they want anymore, because they realize it has created less brand-reliance, less brand-authority, and now they are specifically targeting the smaller, more creative and artistic niche audiences.

            So suffice it to say that signals a return to sense, but only on their systemic terms, AFTER they’ve driven down the price, and wasted precious marketing dollars on fools.

            My job for the past 5 years has been helping creatives/photographers/artists in how to best deploy the web, to NOT go viral, but to build up their skills & followings to a point where they can earn decent livings in the Gig Economy, and hopefully profit off the Attention Economy without selling their souls in the process. For it is, by design, set up to rob you. To pay you less. To demand even less artistic & creative output, but increase both production and speed. This goes without saying applies to the non-creatives as well. They want more for less.

            Glad to have contributed to this conversation in whatever way. Cheers!

            • I think it really only boils down to one thing: don’t do the jobs you feel are a compromise in any way – because once the slide begins, it’s very, very difficult to stop it…

              • In which the proposition then becomes (in a Gig Economy) there are millions (or billions really) who will do it for free or less. 😥

                • Sad, but true. Just this morning I got another insistent message asking to use an image ‘in return for credit and exposure’ on some obscure site – when I declined, I was told that the user was not making money off it either. But surely: if you see value in the work, then it has value. If you don’t, why do you want to use it? The circle goes on…

                  • And I just saw the “Boston Review” use a Flickr photo from Kara Walker’s Subtlety that said “no commercial” (when I clicked the link) but here we are. In reality, obscure site or BR, they really aren’t making money, and that is unfortunately the system, but the artists are the ones who will go bankrupt first. It is a very vicious circle.

  2. Let’s just hope hope the owner of that dress shot saw some income from it… after all it’s been on the news, went viral on the net and has been blogged about by more than just our host

    But I suspect not.

    Isn’t that a rather telling fact about the state of income from photography, the competition is fierce and even success doesn’t necessarily generate income

    • Bigger question: would that qualify as success though? Derivation of value from an image is clear – either the user sells something and uses that to pay for advertising, or the user wants exclusive rights of some sort (news, editorial, art). If it’s none of the above – how do you even measure value?

      • Yes, good question.

        As a side question; suppose that the image had generated its owner a million bucks (!) and s/he’d retired on the windfall. That, according to internet warriors around the world, would make them a successful pro photographer 😉

        IMO the image is somewhere between news, and editorial. (The news is that it went viral, and the editorial is that people/screens see colour differently) I would imagine that a few years ago, having an image that made it into multiple news agencies was good for a photographer (even a happenstance one)

        So yes. Success is when a great many news agencies what to use your image for their news.

        Now I would guess that one of the those ‘we pay $0.25 for your Instagram shots’ image stock companies got their hands on it, the image owner has been paid for the rights, and the shareholders of the image stock company are delighted with their business model.

        Let us know if you get an invoice for using it!

  3. Great article, thanks Ming. As far as Instagram is concerned, my feeling is that many users – particularly millennials – are less interested in producing or consuming “pleasing compositions” and much much more interested utilizing pics to quickly and efficiently share places and things within their social circles. Blurry, crappy pics till the cows come home are the norm. As everyone and their mother can easily make nice compositions, those pics are now a dime a dozen. Note the decline of Flickr, per the Alexa ranks here:

    The millennial demographic seems to grasp the over supply of beauty-images better than most, which I tend to respect at some level. Retirees w/ deep pockets, OTOH…

    • Actually, I think they’re just trying to show off, which in turn spawns a whole bunch of other issues as people start thinking that the crazy is normal (as represented and reinforced by social media).

      Flickr: I wouldn’t say 150ish to 190ish is that bad; what the article isn’t saying is that photography in general is in a downward trend. I suspect this is because yes, of oversupply, but also because all of the quick gains through new hardware and software etc. are gone – you now have to invest time and effort into any significant improvements. And that may be too much work for many. It’s also natural that interest/attention span simply doesn’t last that long…

  4. About your comment on attention span.. One example is the way 500px works. It rewards pictures (via the pulse algorithm) that catch your attention quickly. This means that pictures requiring careful viewing at slow pace will not get the same exposure as other flashy ones. Attention span also favors some type of picture than others. Generally documentary style pictures takes longer to soak in the full atmosphere. Some of the pictures that I enjoy (from Raghubir Singh) will never be popular or widely viewed on the web.

    • I agree, and I think it’s self-reinforcing in a bad way: you land up with shallow images that have some instant pop, but do not reward for longer contemplation. These get passed over quickly in searching for the next pop: and then you need to have more and bigger etc. Conversely, the more barriers to appreciating an image – think observation time, context, viewing size etc. – the less likely it is to get that full attention and impact even if the ultimate impact may be much greater. All in all: the way images are presented and viewed en masse really encourages the production of sensationalism, but not depth or meaning.

      • Stuart Foster says:

        The same can be said about music as well – and this has been going on for as long as I’ve been alive. The music I find that provides real lasting satisfaction is often stuff that took a while to appreciate whereas pop music catches your attention quickly but the attraction, if there is any to begin with, wears thin quickly.

  5. Whoa freaky – I read this on my laptop at home yesterday and the dress was a medium blue – now looking at work and it’s light blue – the difference is like that between the twitter and facebook icons by the comment box on here. I can now see how it’s caused so much confusion!

    • Ambient viewing color temp, screen calibration, etc…

      • Stuart Foster says:

        Ming…did you actually change the photo? I swear yesterday or the day before I was looking at it on your website and it was clearly white and gold – which was interesting because the first time I saw it a couple of weeks ago it appeared to be blue and black. Now, I’m looking at it on your website and it appears to be blue and black again. Seriously?

  6. I hear in your essay pain over what is a lack of attention given to “pro” images, those requiring a high level of craft and by those who make significant income from their photo efforts. The employment of photos by anyone is to convey experience and some degree of impact. The viewer brings their own prejudices to viewing and hopefully the pro will allocate sufficient time and talent to create new illustrations that cause an “impact” experience for the viewer, perhaps providing something unique and with what I term the “wow” factor. However, once a uique image has been disseminated and in effect copied by others comparably talented, attention diminishes. Case in point is the aerial work of Hans Strand of Iceland (another Hasselbad user and former ambassador). Once his images received their due, others copied his efforts and since the “wow” factor for his images has been diminished by a glut of comparable images by others, albeit with perhaps less craft and “vision”.

    Can the viewer at large be expected to tell the difference? No. Does the use of a hasselblad MF film or digital camera differentiate one sufficiently crafted image from another? No.

    So the impact factor increases only with creative and unique vision and not with choice of high end equipment.

    Photography has never been art, only illustration, but at it’s best confides a unique experience with perhaps socialial or aesthetic implications. Many can raise the quality of craft; few can provide consistently unique and powerful images to viewers at large.
    Your lament, as I see it, comes down to not being able to compete by providing new and fresh vision. Craft will win some followers, but it is the pushing of new visual boundaries that will garner desired attention.

    Similar perspectives have been discussed at Large Format Photography forum over many years. It always comes down to differentiation and unique vision as it does with the “true” arts, those where what is in the mind’s eye, no matter how bizaar or extreme, can be conveyed via the chosen medium. Photography has too many innate limitations to be raised to the status of art in my opinion.

    I would say to satisfy one’s self, one should focus on what makes a living, next what stimulates us intellectually and emotionally, and let the cards fall where they might.

    • Equipment choice has nothing to do with it; I’m not even talking about art here. We’re in a situation where clients aren’t even willing to pay for basic craft/competency anymore – but happy to complain about results that don’t meet expectations. Clearly, something here is unsustainable…

      • Alex Carnes says:

        Would you say you’d perceived a worsening in the situation for commercial photographers in the few years you’ve been doing it? Is it a Malaysian malaise or a global one?

        • It’s a global thing that mirrors the increasing wealth gap: the very top is doing very well, but everybody else is struggling. The few in the middle are getting squeezed, mostly downwards. Worse here perhaps because the industry never really matured before it went to low cost of entry digital; standards were never set and culturally, creative work has never really been valued.

  7. Hi Ming, several thoughts,-
    We should be grateful that the dress situation was mostly friendly banter about the curious situation where it looked different in various photos, no hating or spite for a change.

    Second is that you are an ‘influencer’, you are not like some pop princess for hire, but you are in a position that carries at least some moral responsibility with what you write and show (nothing to worry about in your case 🙂 ) .

    Finally this topic can a bit touchy because it is easy to come across as elitist outside certain contexts, and even then someone will want to take offence (in your case gear reviews so off topic for this post).

    I am personally not worried because time will work something out. It reminds me of what the baby boomers said about popular music when I was young, it was like they felt that their youth was being destroyed, a bit rich from the generation that invented the teenager. It is amazing now that some songs that I thought was pure pop has survived and other work that had ‘credibility’ seems to be lost forever, some which will be rediscovered in the next decade or so providing the disks are around and the hardware to play it still works.


    • Dress, trolls: good point.

      Me, an influencer? Yes, but I’m also editorially independent, which I pay for through lack of ads/ paid posts etc. This gives me the freedom to write about what I feel important: if I did otherwise, what would be the point?

  8. gnarlydognews says:

    just because Mc Donalds “family” restaurants are popular I don’t regard their offerings as high quality food. Same for images: popular one are usually mediocre at best, utterly awful at worse.
    It doesn’t bother me the least because I no longer have to make money from my images 🙂

    • Good analogy: though McDonald’s does a lot better both commercially and reach-wise than pretty much anything else, let alone anything else of quality. I wonder if there’s something in that…

  9. Must again ask that you please stop misusing the term “public domain” which has a specific legal meaning and does not mean widely seen by the public. “Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights [such as copyright] have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable.” “Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.”

  10. I wonder if our ability to store and archive and massively circulate vast quantities of images can also skew our perspective of the long term. While I pretty much concur with every point made in the article, some questions emerge in my mind. By analogy, I remember once in my profession building homes remarking to a friend that ‘these older homes were built so much better than the current mass produced stuff’ to which he replied something like “no, the older stuff before there were any regulations or standards, was mostly crap and it’s been torn down or fell down; all that remains are the few that were somehow built better”. When I look at the classic photographs from 50 to 100 years ago, or walk through the museums, or recently toured Rome once again, I note that what I’m seeing are the few, the very few in many instances, that withstood the test of time, weren’t destroyed by war or neglect, or lost to lack of interest. The fact we can now seemingly preserve everything in multiple redundant archives, as if we’re afraid to destroy even the least desirable pixel of information, cataloging every meal, every moment of sudden interest makes it even more difficult to curate what we keep around to look at. (It will only get worse as we move into organic, quantum computing.)

    I wonder what would be the experience of an image engine that could computationally track and remember the impressions from each individual viewer without giving the viewer any indicators of what others were thinking about that image. For example, I could send you my 100 best photos and you could easily comment on the body of work, what strengths and weakness, comparisons, derivative ideas, etc. that you felt could give me a better understanding of my work from one experienced perspective. BUT, what if a hundred individuals could look at the work and only see one image at a time, as if standing in a black box with only one image viewed, and comment only when they felt moved, and then those comments were swept away and stored. The next person would have no indication as to whether or not anyone had even seen the image before. They could ignore it or comment, unhindered by any previous comments or clues as to numbers of views or any other judgements. The computer would record visits, but not let anyone but the owner ever see or share that knowledge and once it was shared, the image would be removed and the data wiped clean.

    • I like that idea. Someone, however, would have to take on the reponsibilty of sweeping up and removing all the trolls who would die of inattention.

      • How about we be proactive and install a flash incineration system in the booth? A couple of well-focused Para 220s and Scoro packs fired at full power ought to do the trick 😉

    • Interesting point: what’s left is self-curated. I don’t know how that works with digital media (if at all); the worst thing is what’s likely to remain is the stuff that’s sensationalist or popular but of zero significance otherwise.

      As for your individual impressions idea: does it actually matter if people know if others have seen the work? I suspect there is some degree of assumption that it’s been done/seen/showed before; the bit of information we want here is the reaction of the audience before it is heavy influenced by the herd mentality and peer pressure of groupthink…

  11. I think we always choose how to spend our time, attention, and energy. Popular can mean a level of excellence is to be expected, but how often does that happen? In one’s art, how far can one compromise before all sense of self is lost? Such a notion hardly needs to be verbalized!

  12. richard majchrzak says:

    no quality control anymore. concentration span of 3 seconds and overflow of impressions , colors, shapes .modern times. oh, stop , that’s been used ages ago….what will it be? wait and see..hopefully not the rule of the mediocre…

  13. As per usual, you make some very good points.
    I personally think, photography has one core quality, that makes it so difficult to sort in just one category. It is both art and a regular, everyday medium at the same time. A bit like stone masonry. There are numerous factory cut or very badly handcarved pieces, that annoy my eye at least, standing about everywhere. And then there is Michelangelo’s David, to name but one.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Good example, Lyart – I’ve seen so many “reproductions” of the David, including the one that’s been placed in the Loggia (where the original was originally on display – so the original could be moved to a safer location, where it could be better cared for). But when I finally made it to the Accademia in Florence, and lifted my eyes to look at the original . . . I was completely overwhelmed by it. I know what it sounds like to say this, but it was quite different from all the copies, in a very special way – its beauty was “in your face”, and so compelling that I spontaneously burst into tears. Which annoyed the hell out of me, because it made it very difficult to enjoy the moment and soak up the beauty of his masterpiece. Two versions – Michelangelo’s and anyone else’s – can appear to look the same, and even have the same materials, the same physical dimensions. But in fact they do NOT look the same.

    • Agreed – I wonder if the effect would be the same if the artwork (or images) were viewed in isolation without any way to tell which was the original and which the homage…

      • Actually, I was not talking about originals and their copies. I just wanted to say that stones are, like motives in photography, at the sole discretion of the craft and mastery, the person forming it, possesses.


  1. […] means that there is much less time allotted per image. We’ve talked about this in the past; only the sensational gets noticed, and thanks to network effects, rises in notoriety far beyond where it should. Such images are not […]

  2. […] How Social Media Changed Viewing Images – Ming Thein […]

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