While traveling from hostel to hostel in Australia, this columnist was presented with a cornucopia of information, impressions, advice, and manifestations of another country's culture and, after covering a student demonstration in Berkeley a few days ago, one of the subtle lessons of the journey down under bubbled to the surface.
In Australia, all the young people with digital cameras were taking photos of themselves with various and sundry tourist attractions in the background. In Berkeley, none of the photographers seemed to be taking photos which would prove to their editors that they had indeed found their way to Sproul Plaza and were fulfilling "the chief's" (All M.E.'s secretly love to be called "the chief") order to bring back images that would visually tell the story that the students at UCB were backing the faculty in a protest against budget cuts. "Chop from the top!"
Earlier this month, a visit to the Annenburg Space for Photogaphy in the Century City section of Los Angeles (what gives you the right to ask if I'm a Kerouac wannabe recast in the digital age?) we saw that some of the images in Black & White gave off a heavy nostalgia karma even thought they were taken last year. The only time visitors saw the faces of the various photographers was during interview portions of the accompanying videos.
Shouldn't someone somewhere tell these digital era wanderers that they might want to get the heck out of the way and take quality photos and not snapshots that only their friends and family might want to see?
Andy Warhol said that a good photograph was in sharp focus and was of a famous person. Yeah, future generations might want to see a photo of you looking at one of Manhattan's urban canyons if (big IF) you actually became a famous literary figure, but if not, the chances are that unless its Dorothy Lang documenting the latest Great Depression, no one wants to waste valuable net surfing time looking at a photo of you with San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge lurking in the background.