Reflecting on 35 Million and 1


“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Robert Capa, Spanish Civil War photographer.


“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not reading enough.”

Tod Papageorge, American Street photographer.


I think this is about right.

I constantly wonder what intervention might contribute to the change we all seek.  I witness others struggling to make meaningful, generative contributions in organizations that we all wish could be vibrant, engaging and serve us well. Yes, I get a bit frustrated and impatient with it at times, too.


With the news from HTC that we Brits take 35 million 'selfies' every month, I thought that I would add mine to the total.  This one has been around for a while now and was prompted by John Higgins, the editor of the ADOC book (which should be seeing the light of day sometime soon...).  John asked me to put my practice on the line and come up with a photograph and some words that might describe my practice. And I made this image at a time when I was getting scratchy and cross – which always happens if I haven’t done something creative for a while.

I’d been on a creative high after doing some visual work with a UK-based NGO, really feeling on top of my craft, but had then spent some time supervising on the Doctorate, supporting others creatively. While I love this aspect of my work it’s not the same as working with my own creativity and I’d been stuck in the office for two or three days… 

So, what sense can we make of 'selfies'?  The HTC poll shows that there is a strong celebratory element in the casual 'selfie' - we photograph to remember the good times. Yet writer Susan Sontag named the insidious downside of this dynamic in On Photography; “Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.”

However, our intentional, considered 'selfies' seem to put us in a much more reflective place. One where we can express more clearly our identity, our obsessions and what we might bring to the world.  It's often not comfortable - and I'm left reflecting on my own image that deep, resilient change requires effort, discipline and rigorous practice. Even then we might be frustrated and need to step back and think again. 

Maybe I should have photographed that silver bullet. 


Steve MarshallComment