To Be Or Not To Be
A camera is like a mirror, it captures reflections of reality, and between apps on smartphones and image editing software it’s easy to manipulate that reality into something we like. We all do it and by we, I mean everyone today that owns a camera or smartphone is in essence a photographer, albeit, not necessarily a professional photographer, but at some point or another, we manipulate an image.
What drives this manipulation? Is it the pressure society places on us? Is it affirmation one seeks through a social media “like?” Are we trying to fill a void? Perhaps yes to all the above, perhaps not for others, but one thing for sure, photography allows us to live in a fantasy or provide one, especially through social media.
Photography is a lure that hooks us into the world of others, or helps us hook others into our world. It’s a powerful medium and with digital photography plus social media, it’s even more powerful today than ever. According to the International Association for the Chiefs of Police (IACP) Center for Social Media, over 243,000 photos are uploaded on Facebook every minute and E-consultancy states that over 30 billion photos have been uploaded on Instagram since its inception in 2010.
Obviously photography is at the most popular it’s ever been in the history of photography, the numbers prove it. But perhaps the real number driving the amounts of photos taken at any given moment is really driven by the “like” button on social media networks. According to IACP, the “like” button is clicked at a rate of over 3.1 million times a minute on Facebook and E-consultancy states that on an average day Instagram users post 70 million photos and hit the “like” button 2.5 billion times.
One could argue it’s not necessarily photography that drives us, but the need of affirmation through each “like” we receive from social media. As humans, we naturally like people to like us. I’ve never met a person steadfast on being disliked, and as a photographer, I’ve met many people who seek acceptance either by their friends, loved ones, or both through photos of themselves. Sadly, today the easiest and fastest way to gauge that perceived acceptance is through the amount of likes our photos receive once uploaded onto our social channels.
In my book I once had free online, Photographic Therapy—The Power of Photography to Help Build or Rebuild Self-Esteem there is a chapter called, “Is It A Lens Barrel Or A Gun Barrel?” (I plan on re-releasing the book when it’s updated in the near future, so check back often.) In that chapter I basically discuss the power of photography and how if a photographer doesn’t know what they are doing professionally when it comes to capturing photos of a person suffering from depression, there is a possibility that their photographs could drive that person over the edge enough to kill them.
In that chapter I also refer to a quote from a Pulitzer Prize winner, the late Eddie Adams, where he states, “The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation.”
It makes me wonder, has anyone who ever suffered from depression taken their life because of lack of likes on social media? If so, would the same occur if social media had a “dislike” button? It’s scary when you think of it, however, it’s possible. We are humans and whether it’s likes, dislikes, or photography in general, images are powerful; so powerful it has taken people’s lives.
Some will say that when 1994 Pulitzer Prize photographer Kevin Carter, 33, claimed his own life from what many believed taking one too many heartbreaking photos (particularly an image of a vulture sitting on the left of a starving Sudanese child, waiting for the child to collapse), that photography is dangerous.
Photography is obviously more than a mirror of reality; it’s become a social media drug that is subject to exploitation in both positive and negative manners. The numbers prove it and lives are impacted by what we like or don’t like, and that is not a fantasy, it’s a fact.
“To be or not to be,” is the opening phrase in the “Nunnery Scene” of William Shakespeare’s famous play, “Hamlet.” It is said that the despondent Prince Hamlet is contemplating death and suicide in his speech during this part of the play. According to Wikipedia.com, “He bemoans the pains and unfairness of life but acknowledges the alternative might be still worse.” Is life today to be liked or not to be liked?
With that I close like I always do and remind you to not forget the men and women who patriotically serve to protect our world and our rights to like or dislike what we see, whether it’s in a mirror or on social media. God Bless them, their families and their friends, Rolando.