On a recent morning visit to Torrey Pines (State Natural Reserve) I saw a group of three young people walk out towards a little vista point. Upon reaching the vista point, the girl in the group mechanically said “wow” (without any audible punctuation mark, more like a half-yawn), and they turned around and walked back. They’re standing at one of the last places with somewhat intact maritime chaparral, and home of the rarest pine tree in the United States, and that was it?
I wonder if that’s fatigue (see my previous commentary, Worn out Beauty) or if people are becoming increasingly unaware or unable to see the beauty that surrounds them – if it is not in a social media post, but in real life, that is. Which led me to wonder if landscape photography is perhaps to blame for that.
The artistic license that we take when we develop photos on the computer to our liking, the dreamworlds that we create with dragging the shutter in long(er) exposures, the measures we take to circumvent shortcomings of the camera… pair that with being at a certain place early or late in the day, when the light is special…
Maybe all of it combined twists reality too much, and special places don’t actually look special enough anymore to impress when seen in normal light? (but then again, what is “real” in terms of photography? Even before the days of digital – being stuck with a daylight white balance when using film yields pretty unrealistic results at times – and that’s how the magical “blue hour” got it’s name.)
Do we at this point perhaps owe a little more realism to natural world? And are we still contributing to conservation, when photos are so detached from reality? Is the vast majority of people who make landscape photos interested in conservation, at all? A little more color, a little more contrast, a little more detail, a little more “style”, a little more drama – aren’t we developing photos for “impact” and effect, mostly? You’ve got a maximum of two seconds to make an impression in the endless stream of photos on social media…
I don’t have the answers, and instinctively, my first reaction would be to say that they’re my photos, and I do what I want to them and with them and don’t owe anyone anything :-} …but maybe it’s time to think a bit more about that. And I’m not even thinking about the effect of social media drawing crowds to once pristine and peaceful places here.
In addition to that all that though, the selfie stick generation has probably developed a disregard for one’s surroundings and our natural world in general – after all, it is a “selfie” stick, where the center of the world is oneself. Look at me in Iceland, look at me at Delicate Arch, look at me, me, me. And thanks to the instant gratification of “likes” and “hearts” and favorable emoji-laden comments on social media, that’s probably more important than what’s actually in the photo to a lot of people, unfortunately.Thanks for reading! You can stay up to date with my blogposts and subscribe via email (the subscription form opens in a new browser window/tab). It's easy as pie! :-)
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