Research point 3: Notes from reading Gareth Dent’s article, ‘Dealing with the flood’

This article is to be found at:

Risultati immagini per erik kessels 24 hours in photos

Erik Kessels, photograph of the work 24 Hours of Photographs, at:

Gareth Dent’s article points out three main creative ways in which artists deal with the flood of photographs produced especially on the social media:

There are some that embrace the flood wholeheartedly and use it to produce their own work – embracing the flood

There are others that select which images from the flood are most suitable to their work and appropriate/use/combine them – appropriating the flood

Still others are storytellers and construct their own stories with found or staged images – making storytelling.

Erik Kessels is an example of the first type,  other artists he quotes are Roy Ethridge, Doug Rickard and Mishka Henner – all appropriating images in their work – and the visual storyteller Cristina de Middel (I found her method particularly interesting).

I checked their work online using the following sources, all accessed on 2/05/2017:

But how do I personally deal with the flood?

I definitively have a difficult relationship with social media, for me it’s a hate and love affair, and the constant flood of images, together with the constant flow of ‘news’, is at the core of my problems with them. I am rather reluctantly on Facebook on an on-and-off basis, I have accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram but never use them, and I am happily enough on Pinterest, but even here for just a few minutes every other day or so.

More often than not I need to take a break away from the ‘flood’ to breathe freely: the overflow of images makes me anxious, unconcentrated, unfocused, even unhappy. And on Facebook and elsewhere I am really bored to see selfies of pouting faces, endearing pets, beautiful vacation photos, food photos, family reunions and the like. I never post any of them also because I think nobody is really interested in them, rather everybody is interested in their own. Perhaps, deep down, many people share loads of self-referential images because they need to be reassured: that they are valuable, that they have and deserve love, that the life they live is precious and meaningful.

But that said I do enjoy and value the possibility offered by social media to see and get to share all the incredible amount of amazing photographs, information and resources available through the Internet, and have no regret for the times when all this was only a dream. And whenever I share something – mostly artworks, craft by others – rarely by me, unknown views and opinions from other parts of the world – is because I think somebody out there might be really interested in them, value or use them as information or inspiration.

Do social media democratise or devalue photography?

All considered, I prefer a flood of photographs to an absence of them and I cannot even imagine a world without social media or global communication anymore. I have read Robert Frank‘s quotation by Alec Soth – ‘There are too many images, too many cameras now …’ but I’m not sure that I agree. Many images are silly and useless, others are meaningful and moving, or beautiful. Some of them are art, most are not. ‘Nothing is really that special. It’s just life’: I think this is true and perhaps this is exactly what makes photography special as a medium: it can reflect life as nothing else, it conforms to life, it can be senseless and tedious, it can be amazing, it can be marvelous. Photography depends on us, on what we do with it, and we can look in it almost like in a mirror.

In this regard I find very stimulating the idea that ‘we see through the photograph as if it were a window onto the subject’ (Creative Arts Today, page 152).

So my tentative answer is: yes, social media democratise photography, and like in democracy there are good things and bad things but better have democracy than not to have it. If it is devalued is our fault, we can learn to use it better.

Am I contributing to the ‘flood’ and is this a good or a bad thing?

So far my contribution has been modest and in itself this is neither good or bad. Maybe in the future I shall take courage and contribute more or the other way round. I appreciate that the possibility is there and open.



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