Suddenly everyone is fluent in the language of photography

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Social media is impacting our work in so many ways it’s hard to know how to pinpoint any single aspect of the changes that we’re experiencing. But fundamentally, everything has changed with the emergence of a visually sophisticated population that uses imagery as easily as conversation to exchange ideas and to express themselves.

via Photo Expert Stephen Mayes on the Changing Future of Photography.

There Are 9 Comments On This Article.

  1. I’m no “photography expert” but I disagree. I think the audience is neither “sophisticated” nor “fluent.” The ubiquity of mobile phone cameras is no indication of either. It’s a safe assumption that over time fluency and sophistication will emerge but presently we’re talking monkeys and typewriters.

    I look forward to reading Mayes’ Aperture piece.

    rh

  2. I disagree with the fluency bit. In the first place, I would never trust anyone who uses the noun, “impact,” as a verb. Fluency is out the window. Besides that, is he talking about the language that concerns photography or the use of photography as a language?

    Regarding the first, the average human thinks “photoshop” is a verb, and that “post processing/production is meaningful to describe what photographers have always known simply as processing.

    Regarding the second, photography as a language, literacy involves accurate use, which in the case of photography, involves editing, usually involving discarding about 90% of exposures made. Try checking the photo streams of facebookers, sometime.

  3. In the midst of a settlement conference before a Federal Court judge some 20 years ago my adversary representing the infringer said, “Some of the greatest ad campaigns in history were based on some of the most mediocre photographs ever shot”. He was correct then and the statement is even more accurate today.

    Our depositions, negotiations and trial testimony consistently reveals that very, very few commercial clients care very much about the quality of the images being used in (especially) advertising and reportage. In my office there is a 6 pack beer package produced and sold world wide by one of the largest companies in the world. Aside from copy, it bears 6 photos – all low rez. Regarding reportage, few if any media outlets of any kind give any consideration to the quality of any shot. They care about price and know that their audiences could not possibly care less about the quality or artistic value of 99.9% of what they are bombarded with daily.

    The public has many things to concern itself with like paying for food and healthcare. There is no evidence that the public gives any thought whatsoever to the quality of the countless images they are assaulted with every day.

  4. scott rex ely

    Let’s look at this quote in particular:”Suddenly everyone is fluent in the language of photography and we can really push the limits because anything we do as professionals is being read in new ways by a sophisticated audience that understands as much as we do about the image.”
    If we are really pushing the limits as professionals, I personally have not seen it reflected in the ambiance of the “Non-professional” depositories of pedestrian photography. Look at popular music, we have no one to blame but Sting for his chants and their infusion into popular music. Ballads become marches and fight songs.
    If these are to be paralleled in photography then I see nothing more than common tunes that people can recite thru their daily use of imagery on social networks for nothing more than plain simplicity in communication.
    If it was really true that boundaries that professionals push could be seen being parroted in the ubiquitous amateur market of social media then we have just brought ourselves as professionals down to the consumer level not the other way around.

  5. The experience of a friend / commercial photographer who recently closed a business convinces me that while there are lot more consumers running around with high quality equipment, this has led to a deterioration of standards in commercial use. More and more small business owners and others are settling for their own amateurish “work” to use online and in local print media, where a few years ago they would have commissioned a pro for a small contract. And even in commercial media the increasing use of mediocre or appallingly bad mobile phone still or video photography, often sent in free by the viewing audience, replaces shots that would have been composed and shot to a professional standard a few years ago. So while more folks than ever own cameras and to some extent have learned to talk the talk, this very phenomenon may be polarizing the market between fewer and fewer elite photographers and a mass of mediocre amateurs.

  6. More people are fluent in the simplified medium of iphonography that exist only on a electronic display. Very few people are fluent in making prints, actual physical objects, that use the full breadth and depth that the materials are capable of. Camera use has become easy enough to quickly create a good mirror of immediate events presented before the camera, but the average camera owner is not fluent enough in the medium to start expressing the deeper truths of life that photography is capable of expressing.

  7. Agree.
    I for one see the world and communicate it through photographs. Most of my posts are photos rather than daily musings. This is compounded by the growth in social media pages whose main focus is to ‘show and tell’ new photographs by weekly themes. These pages have thousands of people (mainly mom’s) who have purchased an entry level DSLR and taken photographs of their kids. Their motivation is simply to be praised. Technology is so user friendly now that anyone can pick up a camera and document the world around them, share instantly and be gratified instantly. Once that gratification comes in, it becomes an addiction, and there is a need do it again and again.
    This is where I started, and how I saw the change. But I didn’t stay as a MWAC (mom with a camera) for long. I wanted to know more about the fundamentals of photography, the history, different techniques, post production, fine art printing, etc. The camera held as much mystery for me as the final image. So I began shooting in full manual mode from body to lens.
    So yes… suddenly everyone is fluent in the language of photography. Everyone is “so and so photography” with a fancy logo and a nice little facebook page.Some even start charging right out of the gate without any consistency and quality. It s a trend, a fad. Only the good ones will break through that phase and make something of it. Having read the other posts, I can see how the commercial industry is money driven, so a totally different ball-game. Meanwhile, those who need a photographer will either choose from the mediocrity pool for less, or seek you out because you are a professional with quality work. You want those who are prepared to pay for quality work anyway. They are the ones who can afford an album or fine art print, and may not necessarily cut corners on quality to save a buck.