Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Locals and Tourists #2 (GTWA #1): New York

This visually beautiful project has convinced me to start to use Flickr in a more active way, in terms of comprehending the power of the modern photograph's metadata and geotagging.

I'm beginning to understand this idea that there is this collective archive of space, place, time, and technology which is happening almost unconsciously worldwide. People put pictures up as a record of an event/moment and through their metadata they are instantly linked with everyone else who has posted images from that same location throughout time. I've always thought about metadata in a creepy way, as a sort of surveillance tool (how can you not having lived though the 90's), but now i can almost see it as a transcendent way of creating a collective memory of a place/time/space. One that, though mediated, is directed by the masses and not a professional eye. Yes, most of the millions of photos uploaded everyday are mediocre, banal, compositionally horrible, and technically lacking, but if I think of them less as "photographs" and more as "artifacts" they come alive. They are documents. Documents which now live in cyberspace and have gained meaning in history by their relationship to other "documents" - i.e photos.

I've been lamenting the fact that we are losing these sorts of moments because people no longer print out pictures. They get shot, downloaded, and put into a folder, which gets put in a folder then onto a hard drive or CD/DVD somewhere and forgotten. In the old days everything would have been printed. Everything had a negative, somewhere, even if it was blurry or out of focus. "mistake" photos could be thrown away, but some record of them still existed. Often nowadays people delete the photos they think are not perfect, erasing potential histories. While this will forever be true, I see now that places like Flickr can/will/are actually may, in effect, become the dresser drawers of the future. Publicly accessible dresser drawers. Kinda mind blowing.

Ugh, more to say but I have to get some other work done tonight. More soon.