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I was going to write about my thoughts on commodification, and how I thought technology today commodifies the captured image to the point of over-saturation. After all, one can see so many images of any particularly sunny morning on Lake Michigan shores until they get sick of all similar if not remotely identical photos.
It was the morning of February 7, the day after my birthday and the party that followed. Running of of maybe two hours of sleep, I drove my friend downtown for work even though he wasn’t in the best shape (neither was I). On my way back from dropping him off I took in the overwhelming sight Lake Michigan offered to people scurrying along its shores. With a phone capable of taking pictures, I pulled into a parking lot right on the beach. As I pulled in, other photographers had “beaten” me to the punch while others queued up in back of my car to find a parking spot. The experience of capturing a stunning morning had gone from excitement to phoniness in a matter of seconds. I just felt like another part of the crowd, with nothing unique to capture that somebody hadn’t captured already. In a sense I even felt like the group collectively was putting real photography to shame, that we were the ones in charge of killing the integrity, technique and artistry of “real” photography. You know, the guys who take ten minutes to set up their camera, the tripod, lenses, etc.
But looking back on it all now, seeing collective photography as phony or untrue is just plain silly. While there might be hundreds of photographs of this same place, on this same day, at this same time, nearly all the photos will be different. All the photos will be taken by different people, all of whom can offer their own insights and feelings into the photograph. Their decision to take the photograph is also different. Is it a spontaneous act or is there more thought to it?
I think that’s the benefit of camera phones and social media. They allow people to share their experiences with others whether vastly similar or vastly different. Human connections drive people and I believe are at the core of our existence. I don’t mean to sound too philosophical or anything, but I think camera phones and social media help bring people closer together when used appropriately. So while many might’ve taken a photo of Lake Michigan on February 7 when I did, they did not see through their lenses quite like I did. But hopefully, we’ll be able to see from each others lenses and better understand one another’s perspectives.