This interview with Paul Shambroom was quite interesting. I was disappointed it didn't generate more discussion when it was posted a few weeks back. Shambroom sees a fundamental shift in what it means now to be a photographer. In a nutshell, it's a shift from hunter to editor.
"In the brief history of photography," says Shambroom, "175 years or so, a lot of it has been going out someplace and bringing back your image as a trophy, as a spoil or as a treasure and I think those days are ending pretty quickly."
One of the original trophy hunters
Shambroom's photos courses at the University of Minnesota follow his philosophy, focusing as much on digital sleuthing as on imagemaking. One exercise requires students to hunt photos online in locations based on the random zipcodes. This is the skillset being taught to the next generation of photographers.
I don't know if image making will totally die off, but I do think the era of the iconic image might be over. This fact was brought home to me several months ago when Bryan Formhals asked in a photo forum, "Name an iconic image from the past few years." I realized I couldn't think of any. Abu Ghraib? OJ Simpson's face? None of them seemed to fit.
It's not like it used to be. When Ruby shot Oswald or when the V-Day soldiers returned, an iconic image was created that we can all think of instantly. But now every event is likely to be recorded by multiple cameras. These images are stirred into the info megastream, and very few are likely to stand out over time.
This might be why Shambroom's path looks tempting. Why bother trophy-hunting in the real world when a keyboard and monitor might lead to more interesting material? Of course some digital editors still follow the trophy hunting model. Rafman, Rickard, and Wolf are among the Street View pioneers, but as far as I can see all use a computer in the traditional way, to search for singular moments. Although the curation is sometimes interesting, the motivation doesn't seem much different than less highbrow edits. It all amounts to trophy hunting.
Street View by Jon Rafman
An alternative Street View application is rephotography. Iconic photos may be more difficult to create now, but that doesn't mean the past isn't still littered with them. For photographers it's quite natural to investigate these past photos from a modern perspective. I've written about a few cases, and I keep a file on whichever ones I encounter. Here's a map of the ones I'm aware of. Please let me know of others and I'll add them to the map.
I suspect these are merely the early pioneers in what will gradually become a flood. Perhaps in ten years we'll see Street View rephotographs of Street Views.
Jacques Philippe Street Viewed some of Winogrand's early images here (1) and here (2).
Martin H. Krieger at USC has Street Viewed many of Charles Marville's Paris photographs (3).
Daniel George has Street Viewed Lewis Baltz's Industrial parks near Irvine, CA (4) (my version here).
Ed Hawco has Street Viewed some of Vivian Maier's Quebec photographs here and here (5).
I Street Viewed Robert Frank's Butte photo here (6) and Fred Herzog's Portland photo here (7).
Then there's Stephen Shore. For Street View rephotographers Shore is a goldmine for the simple reason that most of his seventies photographs are clearly labeled with an exact street address. Google searching is a snap. Dalton Rooney was first on board with this post (8). Kip Plaslowicz Street Viewed Stephen Shore in Minnesota here (9) . Justin Hamel Street Viewed many Shore photographs here. And I've tried my own hand here (10) and here (11).
B: [To audience]
Normally this would be the part of the play where the dramatic resolution takes place. Boy reunites with girl. Maybe they share a bed. Or it's implied. But it's not like the first two parts developed any dramatic tension. I mean let's face it, this isn't even really a play. Play on words maybe. But I'm not sure the three act structure is appropriate for a blog post. The first two acts sort of relate. The iconic thing has legs. Could be developed. But as written the play thing seems forced. No dramatic arc and the third part doesn't fit at all. What's my character's motivation? Just not feeling it.
[A Tomato is thrown onstage. Then several more.]
You do realize if you throw a tomato at me it's only going to ruin your monitor.
[A piano falls onto the stage from above]
Tough shit. I've made it a play so deal. You try coming up with this stuff day in day out. You try keeping it real. Try keeping it playful. Sometimes you're off. It ain't the first time. So big whoop. Excuuuuuuse me for not being Mr. Perfect. Call me a drama queen, whatever, but don't blame me. I don't even work here. Anyway, send me some Street View rephotography if you know of any.