Photography and visual illiteracy
I am often asked about which camera people should buy.
Conversley I have never been asked which photographer is worth studying. This may be because I am regarded as a technician and not as a photographer. Alternately, it may be that the language of photography is relatively unknown.
I suspect that the latter interpretation is correct. It seems for most people, photography is a combination of aesthetics and role-playing which is consistent with our society’s primary value system, consumerism. So most photography is about “striking the pose” preferably whilst wearing brightly coloured clothes and smiling. I suppose the equivalent in language is to speak nothing but advertising jingles. If I extend the analogy to music, people would buy musical instruments only interested in playing a few notes and wouldn’t follow any composers or prefer any genres.
How should a photographer respond to this visual illiteracy? If you are into lashings of irony you could, like Cindy Sherman, parody this sad state of affairs. Alternatively, you can accept that your audience is only other photographers but this is an elitist approach and seems wrong in my view if only because it often ends in solipsism. My preferred approach is to assume there is a visually literate audience. But engaging with audiences is expensive, the average exhibition costs in excess of $4000, and selling works is challenging in my experience when the works aren’t of naked young women.
So my cost-effective strategy is to showcase on my blog photographers who are far more visually literate than me and when people ask me which camera to buy, I’ll refer them to these blogs instead.
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