On a day when The Observer’s Sean O’Hagan writes about what is, in his opinion, a revolution in photography in Britain’s galleries, we’re also treated to an article by Source Magazine called The Invisible Gallery, lamenting the chronic inability of photography galleries to develop an online presence of any standing.
Source rightly note that very little of Britain’s large photographic archive (newsletters, periodicals, exhibition outlines, etc.) has been digitized, nor do most of the galleries even have something as basic as a Wikipedia entry to their digital name.
That’s before we even consider matters like understanding social media well enough to be able to use it in a constructive way. Most galleries are little more than broadcasters here. But it isn’t just the galleries who still don’t seem to ‘get’ social media – agencies are equally poor, with tweets at the height of the Libyan Uprising from photojournalism agencies celebrating their ability to take fun photographs of Americana, being just one #epicfail I’ve seen lately. It’s a bit like sitting in a pub where your mate is proudly talking about his new baby, and responding with “I watched the football last night”.
Digital media is being hailed as the new frontier of photography, but I’ve seen little from the photography institutions (not just the galleries) to demonstrate an understanding of any of it beyond the ability to use Mail Chimp combined with the Tweetdeck auto-tweet function to
spam provide photography fans with exactly the same content by email and by social media.
So, we have a few new job positions specialising in photography (with an emphasis on collecting prints for their archives) at the big London institutions (no mention of any organisation outside of Zone 1 in O’Hagan’s piece…sorry Open Eye, sorry Side, sorry Stills, sorry Impressions, sorry Third Floor, etc), and no talk at all of any of the numerous photography festivals, let alone talk of grassroots developments and what they’re up to.
Still less any talk about how to navigate the digital world. This has been a popular topic at recent conferences, seminars, lectures, and festivals. But again, it mostly boils down to key organisation representatives sipping water and saying, “we don’t know how this will develop, and we don’t know how to make sense of it yet…but it’s really exciting!” Advice to photographers? Get involved in this new fangled way of doing things as much as you can! Just don’t expect us to have any clue what you’re doing, how to evaluate it, or even how to find it. We’re still wondering why Steve Jobs hasn’t put an “off” switch on our computers!
If there has indeed been a revolution in British photography at all, I rather suspect it is known more colloquially as “the spinning beachball of death” on a Mac computer.