Photography is a tumor. A long while ago, photography ceased to be the domain of Japanese tourists who spend their vacations with eye pressed against viewfinder. Then they come home and, with a square imprint on their face, look at the photos to find out where they were. Contemporary civilized humans need to have cameras on them at all times – even those in cell phones will do – so that they are able to make lasting memories of everything everywhere. (These lasting memories always last till they lose the phones.)
Photography is a democratic medium and democracy is when you shout whatever you want and no one cares. Photography is, I daresay, the most democratic medium – while you need to know the letters if you want to write a text, you don’t need to know anything to shoot a picture. That’s why there are more pictures of the Eiffel Tower on this planet than there are inhabitants and no one cares.
At first sight, Week of life is just another of those democratic photo webs where mad humans upload their photos and other mad humans look at them because otherwise they would have to do their jobs.
„The ambition of WoL is neither collecting garbage nor becoming an art gallery.”
The vast majority of such webs either store assorted unsorted photos or focus exclusively on The Art. (Common man’s image of The Art comprises Mona Lisa, a macro bee on a macro flower, a basket of kittens by sunset or, at best, one’s own reflection in a shopping window; for a studied connoisseur The Art is the photography of a dustbin on a scratched slide, developed in manure and blown up into dimensions that are financially unreachable for an ordinary human.) So – on the one hand, there is anarchy and chaos, on the other you will find a selective approach and giant dustbin photos.
The ambition of WoL is neither collecting garbage nor becoming an art gallery. It stands somewhere in between: it’s a well-designed project with certain anthroposociohistoric extensions. I made up the long word in the previous sentence. With the ambition of becoming a mirror of the world and of ourselves, WoL makes use of the human inclination towards exhibitionism. It lets ordinary folk shoot billions and trillions of photos and then pigeonhole all this human product into days, weeks, occupations, and locations; building in such a way a unique archive of our lives. In 2030, we will browse through this archive with fascination, provided that we survive the year 2012. Otherwise, an extraterrestrial civilization from the Pleiades will browse it with fascination.
Yes, we will be able to appreciate the enormous scope and value of the WoL project only after we are all dead. Commonplace object in pictures that bore us today can become symbols of our era in thirty years; for the future spectator, they will be as awe-inspiring as those ugly purple businessmen’s suits from the nineties or those repugnant hairstyles from the eighties. Privately, I guess that we will all have a good laugh over that silly artificial vignette effect from Photoshop that is overused by half of the WoL users, me included.
As we can see, documentary photography is more than a reflection of the world around us. It also says a lot about the world inside of us; it talks about the way we perceive our surroundings; it discloses our tastes; it is a witness to the visual fashion of the moment and the ways we cope with this fashion; it shows how we strive to be different from that fashion and how pathetically identical we are in our striving.
But some people really are different from the others – unlike normal people, they use their cameras 24/7. On literary servers, you can find polygraphs capable of puking out two novels in an afternoon; similarly, there are users on WoL able to shoot eleven weeks in a month. I suspect that some of them live just because they want to have something to show on WoL and that they, similarly to the above mentioned Japanese tourists, must have square imprints on their faces. In the evening, they sit down at their computers to find out what they actually did that day. The stories, though, are different: some people are like tourists fascinated by visiting their own lives; others take pictures for an endless family album; others still are creating a private, highly intimate diary, later to be shown to thousands of people.
„Yes, we will be able to appreciate the enormous scope and value of the WoL project only after we are all dead.”
The way one perceives his or her living space is also dependent on the equipment. In this respect, WoL is truly democratic: you can make pictures with whatever catches your fancy (I don’t exactly mean a woman with huge bosom or a chicken soup with noodles). For instance, I’m using a small pocket camera – despite its wide lens it doesn’t take up too much space, though it’s true I had to grow a beard because it’s pink and people might mistake me for a woman. With a big black camera I would definitely look like a better photographer, especially if it had a beige telephoto lens, but on the other hand, it would make me look a bit suspicious if I used it at a swimming pool.
As I mentioned above, WoL tries to be a reflection of the world and the people who live there; but for each and every participant of the project, taking photos is also a self-reflection. Systematic rumination over the question “What part of my world shall I present to the insatiable audience?“ can help one to rearrange his own thoughts and even ask crucial questions that have until now never crossed one‘s mind (e.g. “What the heck is WB and when I set it to the little sun, why do the colors in my photos turn blue?”).
These are the things I myself have learnt during my WoL weeks:
- Selecting nine photos from a day when I took seven photos is difficult.
- Selecting nine photos from a day when I took seven hundred photos is difficult.
- The essential is invisible to the eyes, and cannot be photographed even at high ISO settings.
- Photography is poetry.
- Photography is a mirror.
- Photography is a tumor.
- Photography is humor.
I’ll have to shoot something soon, because, as you can see, I still have a lot to learn.
|About the Author|
|I received the name Jan Flaška and in the 34 years I’ve been here, I have come to realize that photography is a good way how to kill off some time on this planet. You could say that I regard photography as a pleasurable activity during which I can’t eat and sleep and am not obliged to work. I am employed as an IT teacher at a high school where I work with our youth. In the beginnings of my pedagogic career, I considered writing a thesis named ‘The role of a teacher in the humanization of the youth’, but after 10 years in the field I think I’ll prepare a brochure with the exact opposite. Besides that, I’d actually like to know what IT really is.I am proud to be one of the names behind the international festival of creative photography Fotojatka (fotojatka.cz). The festival portrays great photographs of top international authors so it is quite easy to be proud of being part of such an event.
As far as my other hobbies go, I like sitting at the computer, music, reading books, sitting at the computer, writing columns and short stories, watching movies, sitting at the computer, creating graphics, searching for the meaning of life, playing games, alcoholic beverages, being a host at literary events, sitting at the computer and finally, creating a false image of being a nice, smart, humorous and fun to be around. I tend to fail in most of these activities.
I have my own website ydiot.com, where some of the content is already 14 years old.
|Weeks of Jan Flaška|