An image will bury us
The original sentence, by an unknown author, speaks of laughter, but reality seems to have chosen other means.
On the other hand, predicting phenomena of the future is impossible and those who have tried have collected memorable fools.
We are talking about people who are considered the best in intelligence.
Einstein in 1932 stated: "There is not the slightest possibility of developing atomic energy", while in 1981 Bill Gates assured that 640K computers would be enough for anyone (today 640k is not even enough to keep a very small photo).
And the examples are so many and memorable.
Returning to the images, referenced scholars have calculated how many images created by man, that is paintings, drawings, frescoes and photographs from 1850 onwards, a man of the past could have seen compared to us today.
Obviously, the results are all very referenced and very different.
For the reasoning we are developing we can do it ourselves.
Let's take a man of the 1700s who is not particularly rich. His life was limited to his native city and we add a few trips or pilgrimages to the city, just to exaggerate.
Three or four churches (bare in northern Europe, therefore no images), a town hall or a visit to the home of rich people: the total of images, which we can then speak only of paintings and frescoes, hardly reaches the number one hundred.
One hundred images in a lifetime.
In how many minutes do we pass a hundred images on Instagram or Facebook?
And I didn't want to include cinema and television so as not to complicate my life in mathematical calculations, but the concept is still clear: an enormous amount of images crowd our minds.
From an existence with a hundred images for life to one with millions of images for life.
A second revolution in images, let's put it this way, has two very specific players: the internet and smartphones.
The network we all have access to allows us to see and find almost anything. Almost because dramatically significant images and content are forbidden to us, we don't find them. Try searching for "Syria War" and you will quickly understand what I mean.
Profusion of rubble, smoke, lights, a few alive crying children, soldiers, but there are no images of the main meaning of war for poor people: death.
For the normal user it is impossible to find images that represent "the truth" of a war which, unfortunately, is not just the rubble.
"Censorship" or "self-censorship" works great.
Let's specify: I'm not talking about photos that show only corpses, but images that "tell" the reality of this war. Where are the concentration camps? Where is the misery? Where are the visual stories of the bombings that created that rubble?
They would never want us to form a misconception of exporting democracy.
The second "actor" of this revolution is the mobile phone, which today is a camera.
Today we are all photographers.
Just as the invention of photography upset (for many killed) painting, so the widespread diffusion of photography, immediately published and spread everywhere, upset (and perhaps killed) photography itself.
As a student of photography, the teacher invites you to take a beautiful photo of a sunset. You equip yourself with a nice digital camera (if it costs less than 10,000 euros it has fewer pixels than some 600-euro smartphones) and various lenses, you choose a suggestive place and wait for the sun to go down.
While you wait, do like Penelope Umbrico.
Search for "sunset" on Flickr. More than 30 million photos will appear in a single language and a single search platform (Flickr).
You can divide them by dominant color, orientation, location, date, time and format.
If you think that taking the 300 millionth photo (I didn't miss a zero, I added other languages to the search by default) makes sense, wait for the sunset and click, otherwise go home and search carefully: maybe the photo you wanted take is already there.
Penelope Umbrico has chosen to go home and collect the photos to her taste and make collages. It didn't even click. Exhibitions, installations and even a nice book with 100 photos (not his) for 50 euros.
Penelope knows very well that her conceptual reflection on a critique of this reality has resulted in adding other sunset photo-collages to the millions of existing sunsets.
Now she is on flickr too. And without having even taken a picture.
A reality of this kind raises fundamental questions for all those who make art, produce images and in any case live in this time.
It creates new criteria and new "ecological" needs.
I close this post here (otherwise it becomes a book) and I will continue my thoughts on the images in other posts to follow.
In the meantime, before taking a selfie, consult the internet.
Maybe some surveillance cameras have already captured you, just like you wanted, and you can save a click too.