A guy is about to die and somebody and, instead of helping him, a photographer shoots several images. This is already shocking itself but not that strange when it comes to news-making. There are thousands of extremely violent images that capture these unfortunate situations (just to mention one, one of the most famous photographs of the Vietnam War is precisely the “decisive moment” when somebody is killing some other human being, and I phrased like this not as a moral statement but as a way to subtract the political and ideological elements of the image). I addressed this issue in a former post (in Spanish). The question goes beyond news’ ethics (although it is absolutely imperative to have a deontological debate about it), and this is the key of this “note”. The discussion about what photography is becoming in everyday life goes beyond journalism (or “civic journalism” for that matter). People is photographing everything and, in many cases, using photography as a “social currency” in “social network sites” to gain social capital (success, acceptance, etc.). This use of photography almost as a currency seems to be increasing and I frame it as a hypothesis.
Then the question that seems relevant is: is photography becoming an obsession? Not in the medical terms but in the most capitalist way of shaping everyday life (and this connects to free/emotional labour discussions). With the proliferation of images; the quest of a special image, the risks taken to shoot it and the extremely constant shooting, become imperative. The other day, a twitt was posted: “Your child is being eaten by a camel. Do you a) save your child or b) take a photo”. Domestic photography use to be ritualistic and performed in special moments, with the digital affordances, domestic photography moved to the banal, the common, with a movement towards an “aestheticization” of the normal but that seems to be turning to a more slippery terrains. What are we willing to do for a great photo?
The other day I found this video:
I don’t even know what it advertises but I have the feeling that it’s playfully accurate, while exaggerated, of how people is valuing photography nowadays. If everything is photographable and we all take many images with the same equipment (that is mainly in our pockets along with internet connection), then the outstanding, the extra-ordinary, the unique becomes a highly valuable asset, in the most economical terms. We should probably reflect on this.