Someone Has to Look at All That
Ten thousand. That’s what got me listening. I was in a workshop, during a break, and a group of students were chatting in the corner. Someone said he had been on a winter photo tour to Yellowstone National Park recently, and in four days, shot three thousand photographs. Okay, I think it was at that point I started to listen. But then he went on to say he wasn’t the winner. (Gotta love that choice of words, because it completely reinforces the idea I am approaching here.) The winner, he said, shot ten thousand photographs in four days. I froze. My god I thought, who is going to look at all that . . . and then I realized I had to turn that number into something I could touch. Ten thousand clicks of the shutter is seventy rolls of film for four days. Wow. And in winter with short days up there in Wyoming. That’s a lot of visual diarrhea, to borrow a phrase from a buddy who heard Ernst Haas use it years ago. If you have hung around photographers using digital cameras recently you know they are making a ton more photographs than they did several years ago. Consider the workshop world. Five years ago if someone turned in five rolls at night you knew they had some serious eyeball work the next morning. Ten was almost unheard of. Seventy? And here’s the thing. Are those two hundred and eighty rolls pushing out of the box into new and experimental ideas? Are they really nailing the finished, thoughtful image that comes from working it, paying attention to the moment, grasping the essence of the place, and thoughtfully pushing down the shutter to say “This is the moment, yes, this particular moment.” Or is it, and I can only guess from seeing it first hand time and time again, a lot of visual diarrhea?