It’s all about connection. Remenber, when you were a kid, people use to gather around a print photograph and talk about it. They would also want a copy and travel with it and show it to other people. In a way, photography was one of the first social networking hub.
Because of its highly physical structure, it was hard to get a large amount of people around a photograph and for them to connect via it. Slides and projectors allowed for bigger groups to see , share, and discuss an image. As we see in photo festival like Visa Pour l’ Image, it is still a great tool for people to commonly share and enjoy photography together at the same time. But so ephemeral and still so location based.
Magazines took the sharing to even bigger and wider groups but in the process cut the discussion umbilical cord, leaving each one as a unheard lonely voice. It was assumed that others enjoyed the same image as you had seen in the page of your magazine but there was no way to communicate with them. That role, poorly executed, was left to a single ringmaster/photo editor. But the message was not going through.
Then came sites like Flickr. People could and can connect around photography again. But this time, its is not just friends and family, it is also complete stranger. Regardless, photography true essence as a social tool was finally reborned. Because, lets face it, photography is useless if it cannot be shared.
It is the core of its nature to be extremely social. We photograph because we want to share what we see and the way we see it. However, up to now, the medium that supports photography, mainly print publications and now online publications, have done a very poor job to exploit this. One lonely person, mostly located in a cubicle somewhere, picks an image that she/he likes and post/prints it. People see it, connect with it or not and the images vanishes. what a waste. And this is only for a very small fractions of images produced everyday. Those selected by bored photo editors. That is not a life for a photograph.
Photography does not need Twitter or Facebook, it is the opposite. Social networking sites need photography for people to sign up, share and interact. People connect, react, share, argue, agree, discuss and love/hate around an image wherever it is, as long as the tools to communicate and to connect exist. People create accounts on Facebook and Twitter to connect and share photographs, not the opposite .
The best way to kill an image is to prevent people from being allowed to interact with it. That is probably why I hate photography museum so much. While it allows a great many people to see an image, it completely kills any possible interaction with other viewers.”sssh” is the reigning word in a museum.
This is the new marketplace. It is no longer the “one-to-many” that we have seen in traditional media and sadly currently replicated online, it is the “many-to-many”. The next generation of succesful businesspeople in photography will be the ones who learn to use photography’s social and viral nature and capitalize on it. Instead of crowdsourcing photography, crowdsourcing photo editing. Let the users/viewers become their own photo editors and decide what images they would like to see and share. Let the images become the social network around which people gather and communicate, for whatever length of time they need. This is the hyperlink photography economy that some have been searching for.
With that in mind, have a happy, safe and wealthy 2010 !!