“Examining the Moment”by Nick Schonberger
It has been an embarrassingly long time since The Social Consumer did any examining of the moment.
With various platforms and projects and spaces, maintaining any consistency in posting has (as anyone who actually reads) proven quite difficult. From the outset, we also wanted the site to be about words and the occasional idea. This means that posting requires some source of inspiration and falling into certain blogging traps is a basic no go.
There is a basic danger in running a blog that steadfastly avoids using any pictures. Most of the “good” blogs out there are image heavy, and often employ very few words. When it comes to style, the image is most important. While one can argue for ages the relative brilliance of one stitch type over another, seeing a garment fall beautifully in an image will render any “thinking” useless.
Yet, while the images are wonderful and gladly consumed, they raise questions rarely answered. Who took them? Why did they take them? What do they tell us of a period of time and a particular place?
For the most part, we are looking because an image is either cool or contains a ruthlessly attractive woman (thanks to everyone responsible for posting these images). The general idea seems to be – make this image part of your immediate moment.
There is little examination.
On trend that I’m sure all will have noticed is the joy people have found in posting images collected from the LIFE Magazine archives. As someone who spends hours a week trolling through the Library of Congresses image database, I can appreciated the ease LIFE allows users in accessing what is fairly an embarrassment of riches. The LIFE images have context and a back story, but I must admit to being slightly put off by open nature of the arrangement.
So easy is it to pull images through basic search that the potential of the archive to enrich an understanding of history, and even of editorial photography is lost. There are several bloggers who make it clear why they are posting images – a way of researching their own core interests. As they make no claims beyond this reasoning, I’m not bothered by the re-purposing.
Would I prefer a more critical use of the image? One that places each chosen view into context of the article that it ran with, the year it came to life, and the reason it was chosen for publication in 2009? Absolutely.
This preference, though, is more about what we’ve come to expect from the internet than what people are doing with the images. I’m not bothered by the average use of the LIFE archives simply because I don’t expect critical review of its use.
The opening of an archive is something that should be celebrated and shared. I’d argue LIFE has done the best job of utilizing social media to achieve widespread recognition.
Still, understanding of what LIFE was, is, and does might be woefully low.
The question then is really simple. Do we care about our sources? Or, are we simply content with beautiful images?