Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pub on the Park

Thanks to katenadine for being the subject of my first field recording, here. One thing we talked about, and which has come up with a number of other photographers and/or bloggers and/or flickr members, and which I think is one of the more interesting effects of our newly photo-fast culture, is this: the way that membership in flickr, or fotolog or etc. acts upon a person to influence the kinds of photos one takes, and maybe more interestingly, the way one looks out for photos—finds or seeks out or senses them. This is probably obvious. Memes and aesthetic standards and all that. What's interesting about it to me is the pace and the nimble sociality of these influences. Nimble what? Here:

Pace: I think concepts like trends, memes or styles each have their own sense of time. Aren't they each predicated on certain periods of activity, response, dissemination, stasis? Don't they each travel at their own pace? Maybe a meme is quicker to transmit and more quickly forgotten than a style; maybe a trend is slower than a meme but faster than a style. It doesn't really matter. What's important is this sense of timing and how it works. I think the timing inherent in trends and etc. is not a spectrum which extends infinitely in both directions, from glacial or epochal on one end to atomic on the other. At some point, doesn't the scale break and don't we get a new phenomena, a new concept? It's clear that ideas travel quickly around flickr, but I'm loathe to call them memes or trends or styles because I think they work differently than those concepts. I think ideas in flickr (for instance) travel through groups and tags and comments in a way that forces us to re-think how people influence other people, how membership in online photographic communities works on its members. It doesn't feel to me that there are the familiar periods of popularity and idea-fatigue; the movement feels a little smoother to me than that; the evaluative stakes seem a little lower. Ideas certainly move, but there don't seem to be all of the sharp edges that we're used to; the moments where distinctions between one idea, between one practice and another are sharply asserted. But I stand to be corrected on this.

Nimble Sociality: Bourdieu was amazed (or claimed to be amazed) that popular photography was governed by any standards at all. Without institutionalisation in the form of training, schooling, etc. (which was less prevalent in the 1950's when B was doing his work), he expected it to be ruled by an anarchy of styles (that is, not ruled at all). His work on photography takes off from that moment of (rhetorical) surprise to explain how, in fact, photographic practices are quite rigidly governed, why, and what the effects of this governance are on photographic practices. I don't have much of anything to say about social class (a concept on which Bourdieu relies heavily, as you might imagine if you've read any of this other work), but B also relies on a categorisation of photograhic styles or modes: ritual photographs (e.g. holiday shots, ceremonial shots), professional photographs (e.g. journalism) and art photographs. At this point, I think that social class (I don't have a good contemporary definition for this, and I'm not sure that I need one, so I'm just referring pretty blandly to income and the effects of income) is probably not so diverse on sites like flickr (although, it could well be more diverse than I know). But certainly the movements between ritual, professional and art photography are very nimble. The influences or lines of communication run up and down, nimbly, and I think _distinction_ is not the only way in which those zones of practice interrelate.
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