A Photo Teacher |

Are You Looking For Great Photos?

Posted in PHOT 167 by Paul Turounet on September 1, 2008

© Joan Fontcuberta | courtesy of Zabriske Gallery, Abu Ghraib, 2005 (left) and detail (right), from the series Googlegrams

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Fontcuberta uses the popular internet search engine Google to create large, colorful photo-mosaics that construct an elegant metaphor for the internet-era’s liaisons between mass media and our collective consciousness. Never resting at the boundaries of his medium, Fontcuberta takes a step further back from the process of photography, using the Google image search engine to blindly cull images from the internet by controlling only the search engine criteria with the input of specific key words. These Google-selected images are then assembled into a larger image of Fontcuberta’s choosing, displaying challenging relationships between words and pictures. Fontcuberta’s concept focuses on the deft juxtaposition of search-engine criteria against the larger image those criteria comprise. Penny-sized portraits of the richest men and women in the world are pieced together into a mosaic depicting a homeless man; the iconic image of detainee tortured at Abu Ghraib is cobbled together out of images of public officials involved in the scandal.

As the artist notes, the internet itself is “the supreme expression of a culture which takes it for granted that recording, classifying, interpreting, archiving and narrating in images is something inherent in a whole range of human actions, from the most private and personal to the most overt and public.”

– from Zabriske Gallery exhibition press release

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Lens-based imagery, whether it be from Google, YouTube, websites, and blogs, is the universal and dominant global language and form of communication and cultural exchange. Cell phone cameras, MySpace pages, and Flickr have turned the visual information superhighway into an ever-growing traffic jam of visual imagery that makes any Los Angeles highway easy to navigate. World affairs, such as global warming, war and genocide are simultaneously mediated with the private and the personal, going from images of starvation in Darfur to a birthday celebration with the click of the mouse.

In the last minute as I’m writing this, 7,306 images were uploaded onto Flickr. Based on that number of images per minute, consider this:

438,360 images per hour

10,520,640 images per day

3,840,033,600 images per year

Nearly 4 billion images per year.

Who’s looking at these photos and why? What purpose does such a website serve and how does one navigate it to find something of personal interest? With so many images, is it realistically possible to find great photographs, or least ones of interest?

And these are images from only one website! Consider how many more are being uploaded onto other image-hosting and information-sharing websites, such as search engines, MySpace, Facebook and blogs. And this is just lens-based imagery on the internet. Think about the amount of lens-based imagery experienced on a daily basis, including television, movies, print media, and advertising in addition to our own private and personal imagery.

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Consider and respond to the following:

  1. As you’re interested in photography and lens-based imagery, whether it be as a student of the medium and an emerging photographer or a working professional, what role and function does photography serve for you as a means of communication? Basically, why are you making photographs and who are you sharing them with or want to share them with?
  2. Are you utilizing the internet as a platform to share your work and where, whether it be Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, a blog or some other image-sharing website? What types of images are you sharing and why? And if you’re not utilizing the internet, why and where are you sharing your photographs?
  3. Where do you go (i.e. internet, print media, and/or galleries and museums) to look for great photographs or at the very least, lens-based imagery you’re interested in? And what is the criteria you use to find these photographs of interest?

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