Pictures are good. Everybody loves pictures. Pictures make the world go around. Pictures mean we don’t have to read anything any more. Pictures mean we don’t have to read between the lines or anything too complicated. A single picture can alter political events and even end a war. Pictures of the Ethiopian famine drove Geldof to launch Band Aid. Conversely it was a picture of Bono presenting the Pope with a pair of shades which made me vow never to buy another record by U2 ever again. Pretty sure that god’s representative on earth didn’t want or need a pair of cheap sunglasses delivered by a stumpy Irish minstrel with wonky eyes. Who knows? Maybe the Pope secretly wore them alone in his bedroom whilst singing Sunday Bloody Sunday in front of the mirror? We’ll never know. There are no pictures.
We’ve come a long way since we spent our days painting pictures of alien star gods on the walls of our caves with the blood of a bison. Without those pictures Modern Man would never have been able to comprehend the sheer monotony of the Swamp Age. Pictures are good. Except when pictures are not so good. Art school teaches everyone that there is no such thing as a bad picture and that all art is subjective. This ethic has resulted in some seriously bad pictures. Most of them are sold to the Illuminati elite where they now hang alongside cave etchings of alien star gods. Criticism has become the new C word.
“Oh, do fuck off – you utter critic.”
I recently read a stack of Time Out magazines and could not find one negative review of anything. Not even the pop-up shack at the arse end of Deptford selling burgers made out of brick dust and paper pulp. This is because most magazines have given up telling the truth. Most magazines are now handed out for free and consequently have to rely on advertising to make any money. Which is why nothing is ever condemned as being utter crap. Not even the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone and that can take your fucking face off in a spontaneous fireball.
Criticism, it would seem, is now seen as unnecessarily churlish, spiteful and unhelpful. Pointing out that a picture is bad is regarded as a declaration of war against the artist. Art can suck. Of course art can suck. If most art didn’t suck then the good stuff wouldn’t be good because there would be no comparison. But like monkeys with glo-sticks we hurtle towards another day of happy Christmas shopping, blind faith, prejudice and greed. We can take selfies with Santa and sleep safe in the knowledge that no one is allowed to tell us that our pictures are crap. Social media now has algorithms to prevent criticism. There is a Criticism Filter embedded in your phone which, when activated, makes it impossible for you to either receive or send any texts which might be considered hurtful to others. Next year they’re going to remove the option to activate the filter altogether. Then you will never, ever have to grow up and face the fact that you can’t draw.
There are almost 7.5 billion people living on this planet. If you assume that only a quarter own a mobile phone then there are almost 2 billion devices out there and they are primarily used to remotely detonate pipe bombs and document the utter banality of our own lives. If the average person has 100 pictures stored on their phone then there are, Christ, way too many pictures in this world and most of them are rubbish. That is simply Bad Picture Overload. Sometimes it feels as if I’ve seen them all. You just know that when someone grabs their phone with the intention of showing you a selfie with a donkey then your life is effectively on hold for the next 20 minutes. Because it’s never just that fucking donkey. It’s also an upside-down holiday snap. It’s a picture of someone in a hat. It’s a picture of a dog looking bored. It’s a blurred picture of someone’s front room. It’s a picture of a jar of putrid chutney. (These are actually the last 5 posts on my Facebook feed.) And still no donkey.
Nikon, Phase One and the other major camera manufacturers are currently developing a system called Continual Brain Assessment Tracking. Much like continuous focus tracking, CBAT monitors the fluctuations in a photographers’ brain as they focus, frame and shoot a picture. If the software decides that the picture is going to be crap – for whatever reason – then much like the Galaxy Note 7 the camera will simply explode in your face. And they say that technology is useless?
A good picture can inspire and provoke and amuse and uplift. A good picture can be an alien star god or a dead mobster. It can be a sinking ship or a runaway train. It doesn’t even have to be Art. A good picture can make you smile and make you cry. A good picture can make you feel angry or horny or jealous or elated or dumb-founded or confused or simply un-fucked. A good picture should be a treasure.
Good pictures should stay in your head. Bad pictures should stay in your phone.