The french photographer Mark Ríboud once told me that the biggest mistake many photographers make is to talk during a presentation instead of letting the images work quietly. So, since there is text this time, the logical conclusion must be the absence of images. It’s all about photo theory.
OK, Photographers. There are so many of them like there is sand at sea. From photos, we are flooded daily. Or should we say overloaded? Yes, overloaded is the right word, and the overload of pictures is one of the biggest downsides of the digital revolution.
But nevertheless? How many photographers are outstanding. And if I say outstanding, I absolutely mean what I say: OUTSTANDING.
How many photos are high quality? 10, 20, 100, 1000? Maybe 1000s. Certainly not billions or trillions.
Robert Frank, for example, is a high-quality photographer. Or Marc Riboud, for that matter.
My problem as a neurodiverse person is not to take high-quality photos, but to stand against the flood of low-quality pics. The flood of images triggers the mental meltdown in me. I can’t see them anymore. The sad refugees and the beautiful models and all this visual garbage that our Brave New World so brings… I know that refugees have a hard fate, and I don’t want to minimise this fact. But it doesn’t get any better when the terrible pictures are hurled at me daily and by the thousands. Nobody knows anymore what this gigantic media machine is actually running for. “A picture is worth a thousand words” was the famous slogan of Kodak in the last century. But in the meantime, things changed. We do no longer know what we hear, read or see. In the flood of images, everything is drowned.
Neil Postman warned in his book “We amuse ourselves to death” that the fusion of entertainment and information in private TV and the continuous sprinkling with meaningless media products (TV series, shows, advertising, etc.) will lead to the erosion of our democracy. When did he publish his book? It was in the eighties of the 20th century. What has happened since then? Nothing. Or lest say: Things got even worse. What would he have said about Facebook and the like button? That Donald Trump would be the logical answer to this development?
But I am not primarily concerned with politics in this article, but with photography. Even if there are many overlaps through reportage photography and generally the permanent use of images in politics. My discomfort with the whole topic started in the 90s. It happened at a photo exhibition with Sebastião Salgado. It was about Brazil and the living conditions of the people at the “Sem Terra” movement – the people that had no land and lived on the streets. Sebastião Salgado was represented with his well-known pictures, and I was represented with an exhibition about Brazil’s social consequences of the eucalyptus monocultures in Brazil. For any “normal” young photographer, this would probably have meant a ticket to the Heaven of photography. For me, it triggered a crisis: whether Salgado’s work was worth anything at all, and whether one could “change” anything with photography.
The crisis led me to give up my profession, and I thought about the subject for about 20 years. Yes, autistic people are deep. I know 😉 In the meantime, I know that it is not possible. It is impossible to achieve, change, or explain anything at all with photography. On the contrary, it goes the other way: Basically, sp called “critical photography” creates a rather hypocritical biotope of “full-time affected people”, who all collect good salaries and have time and leisure to look at the dark sides of this world in galleries. Sorry. No way.
The problem – or rather the issue – is that photography can’t do anything. It is probably the most abused art form. In this respect, it makes no sense whatsoever to talk about pictures. Good pictures are mysteries, and of course, mysteries can be analyzed to death and talked about. Whoever wants to be politically active should please do so. And not deposit his dismay about the misery of the world in fancy galleries. Therefore I refuse to talk about my pictures, which in the worst case would mean the end of the category “photo” here. But killing the whole category is not an option either. Let’s see how it goes on with it.
Of course, I am extremely inconsistent. I have ADHD. Please keep that in mind. 😉 So finally, there is a picture. But no explanation. Just a little hint: It was taken in Marseille.