Although more than a billion photographs are uploaded and shared daily via platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and WhatsApp, documentary photographers no longer publish in a communal environment to captive mass audiences. A diffusion of attention undermines their ability to shape public opinion through their work. Some of the same platforms that have facilitated greater diversity in the field, allowing unrecognized photographers and gatekeepers to forge new relationships, have filtered the world into innumerable information factions. Narrowcasting (as opposed to broadcasting) has quickly become the new norm. “My children will certa…
I’ve coined a word for the use of photographic technology on Social Media: pixting. Pixting is to photography as texting is to literature. It means engaging in perfunctory conversation by utilizing pictures instead of words across a digital medium. It’s visual smalltalk; the appropriation of a one hundred and sixty-year-old technology (i.e., photography) for visual chitchat.
The vast preponderance of people who post those billion images each day, millions who enjoy illustrating what they ate for breakfast to a close circle of friends, are not necessarily photographers at all. You can even take the argument of professional versus amateur out of the equation.
They’re not all what many people call “influencers” either. True influencers work hard at it. They’re expert at it. It’s their job description. It earns income. But even influencers with large followings are often supported by advertising agencies that employ ringers to shoot pictures that look like user-generated content. But it is not UGC. It is created by professionals, hired for their ability to produce a “spontaneous amateur aesthetic” reliably, at the drop of a hat. Attribution of the resulting pictures is, shall we say, disingenuous.
I wouldn’t try to disparage the porridge paparazzi, but millions of social media snapshots cannot accomplish what one commercial photographic illustrator can do, to get you to buy a brand of breakfast cereal, or what one documentary photographer can do to—at least give it a shot—to “change the world.” Do professional photographers use social media? Certainly, but as a means of self-promotion, for the most part, to get the attention of clients who will pay them real money to shoot jobs. The rest is all fluff.