We Are All Producers Now
The very thing that makes our art life possible also does so for everyone else. There was a time when only a few had access to the necessary technologies to make things. In today's digital world of media, almost anyone can make a movie, a photograph, an audio clip, a pop tune. Well, it seems that everyone is. In a press release today, I read that 72 hours of new video are being uploaded to YouTube every minute. I warned all of us still photographers about the Tsunami on the Doorstep back in LensWork #67 (Nov-Dec 2006). Looks like it's here.
With all this media being developed and published, who is left to be a consumer? Obviously, the answer is that the producer/consumer division itself is being eroded. We all have been consumers for a long time; now we are both. What are the implications of this shift in society?
One simple idea that occurs to me is that it's possible for standards to rise. Possible, not guaranteed. As we learn how to produce, our ideas of what could be done will push each medium further. We'll demand more from the leaders as yesterday's cutting edge becomes today's mass-available, one-button plug-in. That will cause the leaders to push the boundaries. For example, anyone can do a movie today; only an elite few can do a 3D animation like Toy Story. Sure, we can all by a Canon 5D and shoot an episode of House, M.D., but can we buy enough computing power and know-how to do a home-grown version of Despicable Me?
I wish this trend had taken a different turn in still photography toward ideas and content, but size appears to still be the issue of separation amongst photographers. Sure, we can all do a wonderful still image on our 17" printers, but the elite leaders in photography appear to be those who can afford the $6,000 Epson 9900 printer and the media to pump out those 44" wide prints. Something has to differentiate the best from the mediocre. Why is it in photography that it always comes down to size?
Back to my original point — the tsunami of media. Ultimately, I'm encouraged by this because I believe in the merit system. Quality in artwork is still a commodity that is appreciated by some — although arguably a diminishing minority. The larger the tsunami of mediocre artwork, the higher the rising tide that pushes the best to even higher accomplishments. Finding them, of course, amidst the tidal debris can be a challenge — can be our challenge as producers. This is one of the reasons I place so much emphasis on finding an audience for our work and why I developed my workshop on this topic. As the flood of images continues to grow, the efforts we need to get our work seen must expand to keep pace. The only alternative is to walk away from the tide and simply let our work find its own way if it can — a strategy that may have its own logic and certainly will appeal to many an artmaker. In this, I find discouragement because I'm saddened by the loss of wonderful art the world may never know. We'll never see it because its maker was thoroughly overrun by the avalanche of media made possible by technology. As one small example, I'll never see your marvelous YouTube video because I simply do not have the time to wade through the 288 hours of video that has been uploaded since I began typing this post 4 minutes ago. Where would be we be without search engines?