The big business of bad photography

User-generated photography and ancillary apps are changing the way we look at pictures says Cathie McGinn. 

One of the most significant areas of growth in online content is the rise of amateur photography. And not just amateur: flat out no-talent-required point-and-click mobile phone app photography. Take a snap of your own shoes, a fallen leaf, some urban graffiti, add a grainy filter and you’re an artist.

When someone asked Bob Dylan if he wanted to view a particularly spectacular sunset, he sneeringly replied, “I seen it yesterday”, and most Instagrammed/Hipstamatic tilt-shifted images often leach colours and clarity from sunsets and landscapes until they’re all but interchangeable. Nonetheless, there’s a cultural shift here, a sense in which the way users are sharing images of the world as they see it, is important. Australians are voracious users of smartphones, and so carry a basic camera wherever they go, and that gives us all the opportunity to share moments from our lives in an instant – good, bad, pretty or drab.

From Pinterest, one of the fastest growing sites, which displays pinboards of images, to Instagram, an app with more than 15 million users (currently being bought by Facebook), the popularity of these images perhaps demonstrate that what we most love is not the staged and Photoshopped perfection of professional photography, but rather a glimpse into another individual’s world and the way they view it. Indeed, there are now photo syndication sites that will list the blurry image of your toes in the bath for use in a commercial context, paying users for each download. In a savvy and cynical world, this photography verité cuts through the cynicism of many consumers and connects, borrowing from your life to demonstrate a brand’s proposition. The mundane becomes almost magical. As Marcel Proust said: “The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

  •  This piece first appeared in Encore magazine. Subscribe to the print edition here or download the iPad edition here

Encore Magazine - MoGeneration Pty Ltd


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