“Once the world has been photographed. It is never again the same” (Fred Ritchin)
I just finished the book “After Photography” of Fred Ritchin. Somebody told me, about this book, that it was the “On photography” of the XXI century. Although I enjoyed it very much, I would say is more the “Being Digital” of photography. Ritchin, deeply knower of the photography insights, stands from the point of view of the mainstream photography, especially the photojournalism, and discusses the future possibilities of digital photography. Although an extraordinary book from the journalism point of view, and a serious commitment voice with the possibilities that digital photography could bring for the critical social media, it seems that his analysis lacks something which I think is the main force in the changing of the social meaning of photography: the people and their cameras in the everyday life.
Is not that he’s not aware of this, but he is more interested in the mainstream media and the “serious” photography. Even more, I felt that, at least in his book (I just started to follow his blog), he still talks like if photography was just one universal thing. This is one of the conclusions so far in my research, to think about “photography” doesn’t make sense anymore, even with the “traditional” labels (photojournalism, artistic, snapshot, etc.), and pushing it little further even genres are getting blurred (portrait, landscape, etc.). Photography is many things, not just one. He acknowledges this when he points:
The digital photography potentially will be so thoroughly linked to a multiplicity of media, both as recipient and producer, that communication of whatever kind becomes more important than the singularity of the photographic vision. The pixelated photograph’s ephemerality on the screen and its easy linkage, as well as the impression that it is just one communicating strategy amount many, reduce the individualized impact of the photograph as it appears on a piece of film or paper. Rather than as “photographers” for the most part these kinds of image-makers will be thought of simply as “communicators (p. 146)
But there’s something that I think deserves more attention. It has been said many times that photography, because of the digital technology and the manipulability of the files, has lost its connection to “reality”. Ritchin, talking about documentary photography says:
If documentary photographs cannot be trusted at least as a quotation, from appearances, then photography will have lost its currency as a useful if highly imperfect social arbiter of occurrences, including the accidental and the spontaneous, ad have become a mere symbol of spin (p. 31)
And although this is true in many ways, and he talks of a very specific use, at the same time, the world has never been so real, partly, precisely because of photographs. Hundreds and hundreds of people are “sharing” their “visions” with their “social networks”, almost like sharing “real life”, and sometimes in “real time”. They are photographing their personal and raw everyday life. It is not a coincidence that the Iphone has become the most used “camera” in flickr, my theory on that is very simple; with the Iphone, you can send the photos right away. Like the same Ritchtin points: “we too live in multiple spaces, talking to and seeing images from distant friends and acquaintances while walking down the street, the experiences merging” (p. 19). And I would add: “seeing and sending images”. Again, what is on the stage is the “social meaning of photography” and, probably, in the near future; editors, artists and professionals will have to negotiate it with the common people using cellphones to photograph their cat.
Well, it seems that now the Ipods will have a camera too, this is about to get interesting.