Sunday, August 19, 2007

New York Portraits Turns One

I started this blog one year ago on the anniversary of the announcement of the invention of photography. It's been a very interesting year, but as always I prefer to look ahead. What trends are likely to be important in the next 365 days? Here are a few guesses:
1. The move to the Web. It feels like this has already happened, of course, with so much of photography being shown on the Web, but I get the sense we're really only at the end of Phase One. Newspapers and magazines are struggling with the costs of printing on paper and distributing on big trucks -- and as they move toward the point where the primary target is the Web, photographers will be key. Advanced amateurs using online photo services have found easy ways to put up all of their cat photos and vacation pics -- leaving professionals, who have some hesitation since they might sell their images for other uses before giving them away online, to try to figure out ways to bring high quality work to the Web.

2. A rethinking of the value of still imagery. With video now in competition with photography, and with a surfeit of photographs posted each and every day, both photographers and viewers should be asking: why a still image? What's the value of the single image, or the portfolio, when compared to the video clip and the short video? It may be time to reconsider the potential for still images. Painting faced a crisis when Photography came along, and this changed Painting and Art entirely. It may be that online video presents the same challenge, and that the result may be equally as revolutionary.

3. A repositioning of galleries and museums. The last two years have seen a number of shows that brought Flickr photo pools into the white cube of exhibition space, and the majority of photos hung on gallery walls are now made digitally, at least in part. The interest in the vernacular will fade, however, and exhibition spaces will go on with normal business. I think the smartest ones will develop better strategies for creating their own value: it can't be done by hiding the images in the show, and it can't be done by simply making scale the difference between Web and in-person viewing. The best museums and galleries will need to be reminded that the reason for entering the building goes beyond just seeing the images -- there is the potential an experience that can't be duplicated on a laptop. So what are those experiences, and how do you expand the emphasis on those experiences?

Above: Coney Island, 2007.

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