A Lack of Curation: Lost on the Internet

A Lack of Curation: Lost on the Internet

With so many images being created and pushed out into the internet it’s starting to look like the Pacific garbage patch. Instagram had so much promise in the early part of its evolution, but hashtags are watered down or filled with ads and mis-labeled images that don’t belong. Where do we go now to look at a tight collection of great photography? Even if I took out the axe and started pruning the people I follow on Instagram the ads and sponsored images would infiltrate my feed and my feed would look no better.
There are some websites out there that attempt to showcase or recommend photographers but those are few and far between. Those sites are usually fueled by passion for good photography and not a sustainable business model. At the other end of the spectrum is the idea of using artificial intelligence to curate you latest vacation into chapters, pull from Facebook, even plug in the weather from that location and time. If that’s not creepy enough there’s also the ability to grab stock clips from Shutterstock to round out your vacation story. Automated storytelling. Are we that busy that we can’t go through a bunch of photos and videos? Isn’t that part of the enjoyment of photography, going back and seeing what you created, sharing it with friends and family and saving it for years to go back and re-visit those memories? Curating your own images to share with others in a clean, clear concise way it’s how photography and storytelling is meant to be, not loaded with clutter. 

Is it even possible to curate the volume of images currently produced? Is it worth it? If so, what would it look like? Is the next Instagram under development out there in Silicon Valley? For a while everyone was excited about the democratization of photography. I was too, but after spending an afternoon at the Boston Museum of Fine Art it really hit home that there is a ton of value in having curators and editors keeping the bar high. If the goal is to view and enjoy great images then curation is required. Instagram and other social media channels have made it a race to upload content. More content more eyeballs more ad revenue. Creating well curated and thoughtful feeds have been lost in the rush to beat the algorithms and push out daily, hourly content. Imagine if all of Ansel Adams work was displayed on the walls of the MOMA, everything he ever did posted on the walls for all to see. No curation, no editing process. Would it overwhelm and would it dilute the best work? Would it exhaust the viewer? 

Maybe museums work well because they separate the advertising from the presentation. After searching online for an example of a well curated site or magazine it was obvious that advertising slapped randomly inside a feature or presentation is the only model that is used today. It appears that we just keep lowering the bar and continue to be more and more comfortable with a flood of mediocre content poorly presented.  Do you ever find yourself posting just an “alright” image on your feed just to keep feeding the social media?

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John Fore III's picture

I did not realize until I had to step back from social media this year how refreshing it is to look at things from the outside. I didn't know much about portrait photography until I was laying in the hospital and got addicted to watching YouTube videos and browsing Instagram feeds of portrait photographers. It was so refreshing to me but one thing I kept wondering about was how relentless it was for most of those photographers to keep posting material to keep their audience engaged. Posting mediocre pics sometimes is almost unavoidable if your goal is to post as much as possible to stay in the public eye.

Matt Barr's picture

NatGeo Your Shot is an excellent online community. (Don't have to be into nature photography).
Publications are curated and the editors generally go a good job of explaining their decisions.

Nick Rains's picture

Excellent article, and fully agree. But then again, we already do have this in place - it's called publishing (ie printed books or magazines) and exhibiting. IG is not the place for this which I why I never look at images on it.

Benoit .'s picture

Exactly my thought. Printing still has value. May be it will have it's comeback just like film does right now. But really the $15 - $25 high content quality magazines are becoming more and more popular nowadays.

C Fisher's picture

I've found that any specific photography place online will slowly get overrun by morons stealing photos and posting as their own. You can't really avoid it.

Mason James's picture

This article is so right about the fact that we need proper curation for the appropriate content. The social media are taking too long to respond due to the large number of media circulating. However, a good internet connection such as that from the spectrum can help quickly get past the content that we do not want. The spectrum deals can be found on https://www.spectruminternetprices.com/