Aesthetics, like other human endeavors, is often an expression of (among other things) simple egoism. Although this egoism may help to spur genuine creativity and critical insight, it will veer into misplaced success-aggression.1

Photography is a visual medium that is (most?) often used for non-aesthetic purposes, with a tangential, even problematic relationship to visual art. This confuses some practitioners and consumers. The vast majority (counting passive onlookers) are unconcerned by it.

We are culturally conditioned to appraise pictorial values by the zombie criteria of familiar tropes: think calendars, glossy magazines, and now the internet, which has rapidly superseded old media, but largely serves to amplify the old cliches overlaid with novelty computer tricks.

A small subset of everything we see or ought to pay attention to are acceptable subjects for the mass production and consumption of photographs – portraits, weddings, travel, flowers, pets, wildlife, fashion and glamour, family snapshots, sports, food and so on.

The commercial origin, if not primary purpose, of many of these subjects is patently apparent, and they are fulfilled by ‘stock photography,’ generic images for nearly every conceivable marketing and editorial need. 2

Thanks to information technology, this is an aggressively globalizing process shared by other cultural expressions.

The visual world is increasingly homogenous.

And there are few technologies that exert a more homogenizing effect than photography. 3

Sometimes, bad is better. [ ] Like.


X 2
OTOH we have a nascent global cottage industry of perhaps too connected cognoscenti, busily churning out blogs, webzines, photobooks, instagram, tumblr, etc., that may present a kind of artisanal stock for the discerning consumer (e.g. Photographs on the Brain), or otherwise contribute to the arty-photographs economy.

X 1
The seminal phrase was coined in a manifesto of the “Free International University,” co-written in 1973 by Joseph Beuys and Heinrich Böll.

X 3
Researchers have developed artifical intelligence to generate photographic cliches that can be “confused with professional work.” Ouch!