June 30, 2010

Photography exhibits and no-photography signs

One more quick issue to talk about here. Today I went down to the San Diego County Fair and while I was there I took some time to stroll through the photography exhibit. Plenty of good stuff and plenty of photos of cats and puppies. You know how it goes. But there were these little signs all over the place that read NO PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANY KIND all over the place. This kind of thing--in a photographic exhibit of all places--is something that I find incredibly ironic.

One of my favorites is when someone takes a photograph of something like Mt Rainier and then slaps a big copyright on the image--as if they actually made the mountain or something. You know, it's really not THAT hard to take a photograph of a pretty mountain. Photographers also do this sort of thing with "indigenous" people from around the world--they assume that they can just snap pictures and then sell/display these images without even putting a name. There was a photograph at the fair today of a young girl from Guatemala in the section with romantic pictures of Native Americans and nature scenes. Of course there was no name listed for the girl. She just becomes another digitized artifact that is carried from one place to another, and used for one purpose or another.

Often, when I look at photography exhibits I wonder about the actual utility of photography. What are people really using it for any why? Are they using it to accomplish a particular goal? In the case of this fair, many of the photographs were used to prove or illustrate a certain technical or artistic skill. That seemed to be the main theme, as usual with this sort of thing. But what about the subjects? Were they all willing participants? How many of the people pictured knew that their images would end up here? How many thought it was wonderful? How many had no idea? How many could care less?

Meanwhile, another million or billion images are snapped and uploaded to Flickr and Picasa and all of those great programs. The logjam of imagery magnifies day by day.


Conor said...

Remember that gallery in Santa Fe that got all high and mighty about you snapping photos in their gallery? I remember those photos had the same problem as what you describe above. And they even had a video of the artist's trials and tribulations while taking the photos!

Ryan Anderson said...

Oh ya, I remember that. Same kind of thing. Seems like this is a consistent theme with certain photo-graphers.