What next for photography in the age of Instagram?

In our image-propelled social media era, some photographers fear for the future of the art, while others are galvanised by it. As technology increasingly shapes how we see and share the world, how is photography changing in response?

In 2012, I wrote an essay about the shifting nature of photography in an era of unprecedented image overload. Back then, Facebook users alone were uploading 300m photographs a day, while the number of images posted on Flickr and Instagram had exceeded the 11bn mark. I quoted the American artist and writer Chris Wiley, whose 2011 article, “Depth of focus”, in Frieze magazine, had expressed the anxiety of many practitioners about “a world thoroughly mediatised by and glutted with the photographic image and its digital doppelganger”.

Wiley’s conclusion was pessimistic: “As a result, the possibility of making a photograph that can stake a claim to originality or affect has been radically called into question. Ironically, the moment of greatest photographic plentitude has pushed photography to the point of exhaustion.”

Continue reading… …read more

The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world

We check our phones every 12 minutes, often just after waking up. Always-on behaviour is harmful to long-term mental health, and we need to learn to the hit the pause button

It is difficult to imagine life before our personal and professional worlds were so dominated and “switched on” via smartphones and the other devices that make us accessible and, crucially, so easily distractible and interruptible every second of the day. This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, to which we have adapted with ease, but there is a downside: more and more experts are telling us that these interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate.

We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

Continue reading… …read more

Truly, madly, tweetly: Tanya Gold’s other life online

Journalist Tanya Gold has had a serious Facebook and Twitter habit for years. As she scrolls down through thousands of old posts, what does she discover about herself?

There is a photograph of me, on Twitter, with Jimmy Savile. I put my name into Twitter, searching idly, and there it is. The photo was taken about 10 years ago. We are at his flat in Leeds. He is in an executive chair, expansive, talking rubbish. I am on the sofa, much younger and thinner, with my “interested” face on. I wore my interested face because I knew he had a secret and I hoped he would share it. He didn’t, of course, although I left that ghastly flat fairly certain he hated women. I look at it now and think – at least there isn’t a photograph of me wearing his shoes on Twitter. Which I did. I have no idea why. Perhaps it was boredom.

I have two internet selves that I create personally, sporadically and with a fair amount of despair. I have Facebook, on which I appear 15, and Twitter, on which I am 45, and getting older every moment. Twitter is more ageing than sunlight. Fighting about serious matters with emoticons will do that to you. So will being a social democrat or, to give it the name it goes by these days – the far right.

Continue reading… …read more