Bad photos good
May 9, 2005
Listening to Mary Hodder and Peter Fenton made me realize that Flickr has made me value and even prioritize “bad” photos. Like my favorite photo of myself lately is this one — which by the standards of print photography is a horrible photo in every way. It’s low-res, shot without flash, dominated by two streetlights and a weird black streak across the middle. But it captures the texture of the moment so well, and oddly enough I think it really shows what I look like.
If photos are now purely digital, and mostly web-mediated, experiences… then forget about printing them out. In the new hotness, it’s all about the auratic power of experiential reality. So photos become interesting to the degree that they seem unposed, unself-conscious, imperfect — totally UNsuitable for framing.
I find that when I look at photos online these days, I’m unmoved by cleverness in composition or subject. I’m interested in expressions that rarely used to be captured by even “candid” photographs, because they were too far from the primary-color emotions to easily parse. I enjoy photos where the person doesn’t quite make eye contact with the camera, perhaps because it’s less clear where the aperture is or even what the camera looks like. I like a hint of exasperation, of not being sure whether the subject is up for a photo op or not.
All of this has made me decide not to smile in photos so much. Someone told me that I look exactly the same in every photo ever taken, and I think it’s because my smile is exactly the same wattage every time. Who wants to see another damn picture of Troutgirl and her teeth? Not me!