11th December 2013
I’ve never taken so long to write-up about a study visit before, normally I’m making my mind up about what I’m going to say right at the end of the visit, on the way home or very shortly thereafter. In this case I’m still a bit bemused by what to say and I’m sure that some of what I write will meet with opposition from others who attended this same event.
A jointly organised event between the University of Westminster and the Royal Photographic Society, apparently a biennial event. The subject of course ‘Sharing Photographs’ with four named speakers to provide different views and ideas on the subject, Roger Hargreaves, Dr Alexandra Moschovi, James Evans and Dr Loplop. At this point I think it best to say that overall I found I got a great deal from the event, but I must also say that two of the speakers weren’t particularly good at public speaking and I soon lost interest in what I can only describe as a ramblings diatribe and a nonsensical blathering.
Roger Hargreaves started the day with a very widely researched and erudite talk on the use of election imagery messages via social media networks by Barack Obama’s campaign team in his first election campaign and the overwhelming success this had. The team apparently saw a gap in the election campaign strategies and went for it big time, messaging images supporting Obama to the demographic group using this form of communication the most, the result of this is now history. Many who were there were extremely impressed with the vast array of pictures that Hargreaves had culled from various social media sites covering this topic and also on the remarkable resemblance he’d made with them in his edit to ‘The Americans’ by Robert Frank. I think the thing that struck me most about this research and its delivery was that, like it or hate it, social media is a force that has to be reckoned with in all sorts of spheres for the influence it has. Not only did it influence an election, but the implications for photography are also profound in the sheer numbers of images that are created and delivered via this method. Although serious photographic artists may deride Facebook, Twitter et al as irrelevant to their world and the dissemination of their work, it simply isn’t going to be so in the future as more and more people take their cultural input from the many services that provide feeds to the WWW. It will mean a rethink of the way we try to engage with the public and in the way we attempt to get them to spend more than a nano-second interfacing with our world and we will have to engage with it. The question is how do we do this in a meaningful way, and the answer is going to be more complicated than we probably think.
Dr Alexandra Moschovi
Starting from a point in her childhood when she wanted to have a micro-camera that she could attach to her glasses and make images as she looked about without the subjects realising this had happened, Dr Moschovi has come into a new era where the idea is now going to be available in the very near future, January 2014(?). This new product is called the Google Glass, something that’s been Beta tested with Explorer versions to developers and top sports people at least all the way through 2012. This talk was extremely interesting and explored the technology in great depth, however it did leave me wondering if this was a neat way for Google to get their product advertised without expense. I’ve no doubt that when Glass becomes readily available at the suggested price of approx; $500.00 a pair, I’ve no doubt that there’ll be millions of people willing to pay the price for them and then we’ll be further flooded with candid photography from the street and elsewhere, no doubt on the WWW. As far as serious photography is concerned I can see it being a great boon. No longer the need to lurk in the shadows waiting for the ideal moment to spring out and make the hurried shot, or the need to furtively hide small cameras within our clothing, the shooting from the hip a thing of the past. Now we’ll be able to walk around quite openly and make the images we want simply by looking in the right direction and simply clicking. I’m sure many people will soon come to recognise the Glass technology wearer, but will they shy away from it? The answer is probably not as it already seems that the smaller the camera used for street photography, the less street subjects avoid them. Will I buy one? Not at $500.00 a unit, nor when they’re likely to be much cheaper as the technology develops, why? I simply don’t make enough street photography images to make it worthwhile, and I’m sure that if I had a set the novelty of them and the street photography would soon wear off when the images become lost in the plethora of similar images that will swamp the market, before and at the time I have it.
Whilst waiting for the seminar to begin I began to hear other attendees talking together about James Evans and how inspirational he was, how they were looking forward to his talk and some were only there because of his appearance. Now this is where I think people who are inspired by him will fall-out with me, although some parts of his talk were interesting I personally found him boring and a diatribist. His meandering talk and attacks on the educational establishment left me cold and from time to time he either repeated himself or brought forward contradictions to his own arguments. What I did find fascinating was his approach to wanting the viewing public to handle his art although, not as it turned out, steal it. His other very good idea was to take images and attach multi-coloured sticky dots to them and relate them to the punctum of Roland Barthes ‘Camera Lucida’, introducing the idea that if there could be one punctum, why not many?
The one speaker I really could not understand why he was there, other than to perhaps introduce some levity, although that was marginal at best, and to prove the point that many make, that the social media is swamped with work published by idiots like this. Having said that I’m sure he has a vast and loyal following, and presumably either lives of that type of adulation or makes a handsome living from the puerile humour he purveys. This could be a big mistake on my part, but I couldn’t understand any points he tried to make and when he introduced trend statistics to prove how sites like his were followed I had to switch off and calm down.