Should photographers think more like a guerilla?
Recently, I wrote here questioning the ways that photography is displayed and shared with the public. My basic premise: that the typical ways that photography is shared — the gallery wall, the publication, the web site — are not necessarily the best ways to serve the messages any given set of photographs is meant to undertake. At the time, I pondered if there might be better ways, and here I want to outline some different possible answers. By no means are these definitive or complete. In fact many of them may be downright impractical. Still, I think that photographers would be well served to consider thinking outside the box, and maybe some of these ideas might spur some better ones.
Billboards. Imagine placing important photographs up on large commercial billboard space. What might the cost be? Would it run more or less than putting on a typical 10+ image gallery show, and/or last about as long? For that matter, how does it compare to the cost of most self-published book runs? And imagine, although only one image could be shown, it would be seen by thousands of people each day, of all walks of life and all sorts of positions in society. Before, dear reader, you dismiss the idea as crazy, consider: some artists are already doing this.
Online multimedia videos. Although I’m discussing the sharing of still images, multimedia presentations combining audio and still images — especially if accompanied by well done and appropriately crafted narration — can be a powerful effect. There’s a reason why Apple’s iMovie has a built-in effect known as the Ken Burns effect. Faced with making films about eras of American history that predated movie cameras, Burns found ways to combine still images, music, and narration to powerful effect. And video is one of the most popular methods of entertainment on the web, as evidenced by the strength of YouTube‘s hit counts. A compelling multimedia presentation has potential to reach audiences who would otherwise not feel engaged by a conventional web thumbnail gallery of still images. (I made one for the Portland Switching District Project.)
Temporary projection. Fellow writer Dan Haneckow mentioned this idea to me while we were working together on an architectural history project. Using a digital projector, images — in our original concept images of buildings that are now gone — could be projected onto structures or other large surfaces. Imagine a rotating series of images displayed against the blank wall of a building, or even downward against pavement. While temporary, such displays would draw huge amounts of attention from all manner of people, hooking them in to see what the image is and understand its significance.
Guerilla publication. While the conventional bound book has a place and a value, it has limited reach, thanks in part to its high cost. Imagine instead publications of small size, but made free. Sure, printing and selling postcards has been around forever, but who says there has to be a price-tag? Imagine hundreds, even thousands of postcard sized prints, left randomly at bookstores, coffee shops, community centers, libraries — anywhere, really. No, nobody will make money off this deal, but free stuff gets taken, and maybe in the process those photos will live on in people’s homes or places of work, where they will be seen, appreciated, and perhaps understood. For a little more, small 4-8 page booklets could also be produced to the same purpose, with even greater likelihood of being kept and appreciated.
What other unconventional ways might photos be shared, and therefore find meaning and purpose?