There’s a quiet revolution going on at the moment. Just smoke signals went out of fashion as new (safer) methods of communication were discovered, the way we connect with each other is radically changing.
On any given day, around 40 million photographs are shared on Instagram. With our smart phones and our tablets, more pictures are taken every two minutes than were shot in the entire 19th century. We’re using images rather than words to convey how we feel, think and to communicate what we want to say.
But it’s not just the shift to pictures that’s important; it’s the fact we can all participate. There are two and a half billion smart phones on the planet – and each one of those has a camera. Go back to the 19th century and photography was the privilege of the few who could afford the heavy, bulky equipment. Thirty years ago, the amateur photographer had to invest heavily if they wanted a decent camera. Even those that went with the cheaper end of the spectrum spent money on film and developing costs.
The accessibility of photography has made communicating by image more of a democracy. Anyone can participate in the conversation; from the professional portrait to the iPhone picture. And this accessibility has also spread to video, where everyone can be a filmmaker.
Just as in literature, where the invention of the printing press allowed wider participation in writing and a sharing of ideas, stories and theories, the access to photography and video has led to an explosion of creativity. There are now no rules. In video, lighting an interview can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Use 15 lights, or just the little sun coming through a north-facing window. There’s a thirst for finding new ways of doing the same thing; some work, and some don’t. But there’s opportunity, and that’s exciting.
Of course, go back to the 40 million daily Instagram images and not all of them will be stunning. Most of them will be barely OK, perhaps half in focus. Not every sentence that comes out of our mouths is literary genius, but we’re communicating. And so it is with this visual culture.
Challenge three people to take the same picture and the result will be three different images. The key is to embrace the difference, and be open to understanding this is what the image creator wants to say.