So today for some reason I decided I wanted to know where the hashtag on twitter comes from. Thanks in part to a post on my tumblr dashboard, I suspect.
A poke around in the NYT archives didn’t help, but I found an article listing the features of twitter. This then got me to open my twitter page in my browser, and start to cull the people I follow, I’ve long found it to be too noisy to be of any use. In that process I found I’m following one @kukkurovaca. Not sure why I was following him as his recent tweets seemed somewhat odd and without a photographic connection, I dug a little deeper. It turns out he is photographer and writer and writes for the blog, one125.net
This then lead to an article entitled the 1978 test.
This article quotes one of my favourite writers on photography, John Szarkowski, and talks about the democratisation of the tools then available to picture makers, in 1978 mind you.
Here’s the quote from the essay Mirror & Windows:-
Portraits, wedding pictures, scenic views, product photographs, PR photos, architectural views, insurance-claim documents, and a score of similar vernacular functions that were once thought to require the special skills of a professional photographer are now increasingly being performed by naive amateurs with sophisticated cameras. Although for the most part these pictures are approximate and graceless, they answer adequately the simple problem of identifying a given face, setting, product, building, accident, or ritual handshake. (Szarkowski, Mirrors and Windows, p. 14)
What this all points towards for me, is a greater understanding of the value of ‘reading’ a picture, something that most western educational systems lack. Marvin Heiferman in the book, ‘Photography Changes Everything’ pub by aperture and released this month even adds his voice to the argument.
We know that photographs work, but not quite how they do. We pay lip service to visual literacy but don’t bother to teach it. In schools, at home or work, in our day-to-day lives we don’t give much thought to assessing what makes photography such an effective medium. We should. “The more technology develops the diffusion of information (and notably images),” as social critic Roland Barthes Observed, “the more it provides the means of masking the constructed meaning under the appearance of the given image.” (Marvin Heiferman, Photography Changes Everything, pg 15.)
Henry Holmes Smith has been arguing for this since 1953, in his article ‘The photograph and its readers’. He argues that native speakers require up to 12 years of training to ‘read’ art written in their native language and more if they are to become adept at reading the more difficult texts.
Um where was I?
Oh that’s right outside to make some more pictures I guess?
Ah the internet is it not the greatest procrastinator’s tools ever invented?