Do You See What I See?

Eyeball 1, by loonyhiker, 2009.

At some point, everyday, I scan the Internet for stories about photography’s role and impact in culture. It turns out that in addition to all the images that are out there to be seen, there are surprising numbers of reports circulating about the power of those photographs, for those who are looking. Certain narrative threads pop up repeatedly. Someone is always noting and/or complaining about the spread of surveillance cameras. (A recent article, for example describes how there’s 1 surveillance camera for every 14 people in Britain, while in China, while the ratio’s higher for the moment, 1 for every 472,000 people, but many more cameras are being outfitted with facial recognition software.) And then, there are stories about photography that while predictable, are still kind of shocking, like the recent report about a nurse’s aide in Plattsburgh, New York, charged with taking explicit cell phone photographs of a patient suffering from a traumatic brain injury and sending them to a colleague.

Another persistent theme, the payoff that results from careful photographic analysis, is illustrated by two interesting stories I recently came across. The first describes the Army’s use of "Where’s Waldo?" photographic imagery in training games designed to teach troops bomb-spotting skills. The second trumpets the discovery—by Italian archeologists studying some contemporary commercial aerial views—of the lost city of Altinum whose residents fled from Attila the Hun in 452AD, and left behind a ghost town of theatres, temples, and basilicas, on their way to settle a new city, Venice.

In doing some early research for click! photography changes everything, I was astounded to read that—according to Steve Hoffenberg, of Lyra Research in Newtonville, Mass—over a billion photographs are made each day. But once I wrapped my mind around that stunning fact, what’s become even more fascinating to me is paying closer attention to what it is we all seem to be looking for.

Let me know what you’re seeing and thinking about.

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