Part 0 – Notes on ‘Dealing with the Flood’ Article

This article starts with looking at Jesse Alexander’s thought-provoking images of Erik Kessel’s work ’24 Hours of Photographs’ where Kessels downloaded and printed every photograph uploaded to FlickR during one 24 hour period. The ‘flood’ referred to in the title of the article therefore referring to the ceaseless publication of new images on the Internet.

I think the artwork could be interpreted as being somewhat derogatory. He presents the photographs as if they have been thrown away in a pile, or are wasting the entire space of a room and not just the floor, by physically ‘filling up’ the room. He avoids the real function of FlickR itself i.e. to be used in a similar way to Facebook and the other so-called ‘social networking’ websites and one of the purposes of the site is to bring together like-minded people interested for example, in a particular genre of photography, or around a particular location. Other purposes of the website include providing inspiration, or educating people in photography. It was never designed to be consumed in its totality, rather, for people to customize and extract the elements which are of interest to them. I do admit however that the artwork was thought-provoking. It made me think of the time and energy expended by all those individuals creating the images. What other perhaps more useful purpose could their time have been spent on? What if everyone, instead of uploading to FlickR on a particular day all donated that time spent to something more useful, more charitable perhaps?

The image reminded me very much of a photograph I had seen on a visit to Marseille’s La Friche de la Belle de Mai, a former tobacco factory converted to a cultural centre for all forms of art including Photography. The image was taken by Penelope Umbrico and was a mosaic of a large number of sunset photographs selected from FlickR on 4 May 2015. She had over 27 million sunset images to choose from (27,7000,711 to be precise!). I think that the same intention was there, to shock the viewer into understanding the sheer volume of photography activity happening in the world, but instead of depicting them as ‘rubbish’ she effectively creates a credible artwork signifying that each individual photograph potentially has its uses, plays its part and has a role not only to the individual taking the image and retaining that memory via a photograph, but also sometimes in a wider context, to create art!

from 27,7000,711 Sunset pictures on Flickr on May 4 2015 by Penelope Umbrico
Sunset Portraits from 27,7000,711 Sunset pictures on Flickr on May 4 2015 by Penelope Umbrico

The article goes onto explain how the photographer Alec Soth suggests that there are 3 ways to deal with this ‘flood’ of images:-

  1. Make the flood the subject e.g. the works mentioned by Erik Kessels and Penelope Umbrico;
  2. Appropriation i.e. select from the flood rather than take photographs yourself (e.g. works by Roe Ethridge where she juxtaposes or superimposes multiple images to create her own new photograph, Doug Richard’s use of Google Street View to create a series of America’s ‘forgotten or economically devastated’ roads.);
  3. Story-telling
This suggests that there is a new genre or ‘layer’ of photography emerging to counterbalance the ‘flood’ which in itself is creative rather than being the ‘end of photography’ as a serious art form as we know it. I personally like the ‘flood’. It gives me inspiration via sites like FlickR, it means that photography is no longer just for Photography Club anorak-wearing nerds that bang on about their elite equipment, it is reaching far and wide and becoming something we all accept virtually internationally as an ingrained part of our culture, and crucially, we appear to enjoy!

Sources

Dent, G (2013) Dealing with the Flood. At: http://weareoca.com/photography/people-are-hungry-for-stories/

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