Having a camera and having visual culture: the uses of digital photography

visual culture and digital photographySocial Media has set the stage for images to become the way we communicate. According to the IACP Center For Social Media 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook which equates to 4,000 photos per second, Flickr users upload 3.5 million photos to the site and more than 45 million pictures are uploaded to Instagram every day. We can not deny that people are posting images every second and that it sets the idea that everyone can become a photographer if there is an access to a mobile phone with a camera. But then comes the question: is having a camera affecting the quality of photography and if there’s a difference between professional and amateur photographer?

Since the early stages of the digitalization of photography, purists were concerned that it would bring a catastrophic revolution that would end with this visual art. Nevertheless time has proved as Gunthert (2014) stated in his article From the Fluid Image to Connected Photography, that this first stage of digital transition had important consequences in the industry of images: the disappearance of laboratories, simplification of procedures, multiplication of numerical databases, and rise of prices. However, in spite of a considerable technological jump, we have been able to observe a remarkable continuity in the forms and uses.” Following his ideas, I believe the art of photography has not been destroyed; on the contrary it has renewed its uses and is becoming the language we use to express how we are feeling, what we are doing, what is important to us and how we want to be remembered.

Some people would say that the Internet and social media has become the place to find photography trash, but I would agree with Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer when he says in an article Hoy todos somos fotógrafos, pero con una cultura visual escasa: Pedro Meyer, that is not necessarily trash because it matter to someone, even the kitten or the dog photo. “Today they are all photographers, all generations, millions of people who share pictures and news with a small core of people, all self-referential, selfies, your children, pets, food, travel … but all that interests your published circle of friends and relatives.” According to Meyer, we are all photographers but we lack of a visual culture and there is a need educate people on how to read images, just like in the early stages of print: there were very few people able to read them, but over time a natural dynamic you created.

Based on this idea there is a difference between amateurs and professional photographers because is not just about managing the equipment (cellphone or professional camera) but having a visual culture and the purpose behind the photography. On the other hand the filters, the crop tools, the high-resolution properties on a camera could enhance the quality of the images, but it is all based on the ability to read and create good images. Our capacity to improve our visual culture will depend on the circles we are part of, the people we follow and the things/moments we share on social media. In this sense the level of quality will depend on the more of 4,000 photos per second we are exposed to everyday.

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