Poshlost: fake emotion, unearned nostalgia

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All bad photos are alike, but each good photograph is good in its own way. The bad photos have found their apotheosis on social media, where everybody is a photographer and where we have to suffer through each other’s “photography” the way our forebears endured terrible recitations of poetry after dinner. Behind this dispiriting stream of empty images is what Russians call poshlost: fake emotion, unearned nostalgia. According to Nabokov, poshlost “is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive.” He knows us too well.

via The New Inquiry.

There Are 10 Comments On This Article.

  1. I’e been debating whether or not to get rid of Facebook. It was a good way for me to reach out to people but I’m finding it more and more useless and depressing for the reasons stated above. I think this was probably the push I needed to pull the plug.

    • Donnor Party

      Facebook is a tool. I’m not “friends” with anybody I’m not actually Friends with. Cuts down on the sandwich pics. It alows me to stay in touch with my very close circle of friends all over the world. There are only about 35 of them.

  2. Donnor Party

    Let me summarize: edit your pics before uploading.

    I agree with the substance but not the (faux, almost, shall we say, sentimental?) world weary tone of the piece. It is a teutology to say that good photographs are the result of thought, and bad photographs are not. He didn’t need 3000 words or so to make the point.

  3. I am not sure sure what a ‘bad photo’ is. If an image is blurry or out of focus, has awfull white balance, badly composed, is it a ‘bad photo’ ? most people am sure would say yes, but the photographer could say well I was telling a story.
    I agree, perhaps more editing should be done b/4 posting but maybe………?

  4. The cost of living in a free, open culture is that everyone with half a voice can make themselves heard. This has a monumental benefit: many of them will have beautiful, interesting things to say. Historically, the signal to noise ratio seems to remain more or less constant — more noise means more signal. Those days of terrible recitations of poetry may be gone, but with them went the days of ubiquitous great poetry. I might put up with some doggerel at dinner for a couple more books of Rilke. The ‘bad’ photos that the author, plagued his weltschmerz, is suffering are the cost of the profusion of great work everywhere you look. One can choose to wallow in the crap and complain, or seek out the great and rejoice.

  5. Well, do we really “suffer” when looking at a allegedly bad photograph? I do really agree with Mark M, there’s a lot of not so good stuff out there but also some really amazing things.

  6. John Rickwood

    “Poshlost” seems to describe perfectly the work of latter day disciples of the Dusseldorf School of photography, a serious case of the emporer’s new clothes.

  7. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some can choose to see beauty anywhere. I don’t complain about people sharing their efforts…even if I don’t appreciate them myself. I merely do not follow the work of photographers whose art I do not find suits my taste, or does not challenge me in some way. I could understand annoyance at novices who fashion themselves artists…but that is irritation at an attitude of a photographer, not at the photo itself or the act of sharing.

    I agree with a few other posters here, “bad” photographs do not cause us pain, just filter out those who do not suit you. Photography can be an art, or it can be just about sharing a part of your life. I share photos of my children to family that I would not share to other photographers. While some may be holding a pretense of being an aspiring photographer, others are just sharing a part of their lives or experience. Why does that offend you?

    I strongly disagree with the assertion that people should be expected to edit their photos before uploading. Is an edited photo a better photo? A purist might disagree. However I have suggested to some people to filter their photos, as in using discretion about what to upload and what not to upload.

    Anyway, everyone has to learn sometime, and who are we to rain on their enthusiasm? Perhaps rather than complaining, your time might be better spent finding positive ways to direct their energies and help them to improve?

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