We are inundated by pictures. We make them. We share them. We see them. An estimated 5 billion photographs are taken every day. Mostly with phones. They’re shared widely. 6.9 billion images a year are shared on WhatsApp. 1.3 billion go out on Instagram. More than 1 billion on all the rest of social media. And of course most images are not shared, or at least not publicly. The average person has just over 2,000 images on their phone (why do we still call it a phone?). iPhone users have a few hundred more than Android users. I have 16,000 on my iPhone. (stats conglomerated by Matic Broz of photutorial)
So many images.
Humans are visual animals. It’s hardwired in our brains, reflected in our language, it’s how we understand the world. Studies have proven that text accompanied by any image — even a photo that has nothing to do with the content — is remembered better. It’s just how we work.
As an artist who makes images this is overwhelming. But as an artist, of course I want my images to be seen. I want to feel that my pictures matter. That I can, somehow, make a difference. But as one person in that kind of pool, is it possible? What makes the pictures I take any better than the photos the person four feet away from me (and usually 6cm taller) takes? How can I make my images stand out? There are so many images.
I am constantly asking myself questions. Is it enough to make a beautiful image? What story is my image telling? Is it possible to make an image that truly moves people, or are we desensitized to images? Why are people so down on sunsets/sunrises? Should we decenter the human in our photography? How important is any of this, anyway?
Photography has changed. People are concerned, and rightly so, with the rise of AI in image and text generation. But, when everyone is a photographer, what then does it mean to be a Photographer?