One of the things I love about the Web is that it brings so much good stuff to so many people. Blah blah blah, you all know the drill. Today I’m all agape over some photographs by Russian photographer Chistroprudov Dimitri, who apparently specializes in night-time cityscapes of Moscow, taken from various rooftops around the city.
This is no mild amusement on Flickr. Dimitri has a large body of work, and each image takes considerable effort to conceive and execute. And they really work. This is outstanding urban photography, by any measure.
I found them, via a Twitter post from Vanou, on English Russia — a fascinating Web site dedicated to bringing images and stories of contemporary Russia to English speaking readers and viewers. (Warning: if you click that link you’d better have a high-speed connection because the page loads about 80 photographs, all larger than the reduced and compressed versions I’ve included in this post.)
I love cities and I love urban photography, so I’m really glad to have found these photos.
So what do I hate about the Web? I hate the way the Web tends to reduce serious photographic work down to the level of a quick diversion. Go to the English Russia link above (right click and choose “Open link in new tab” and let it load in the background while you finish reading this post). What will you do there? You’ll look at the first few and say “wow.” Look at a few more. More “wows.” Pretty soon you’ll be scrolling through faster and faster, spending on average about 1.5 seconds on each image.
This is largely due to the design of English Russia and its editorial position (putting 80 images on a single page is a “dump” of the images, and clearly not a thoughtfully considered curatorial decision). Regardless, that’s what you generally get on the Web. Even if English Russia put the images into some kind of album that played with a nice soundtrack, 80 images is still too much. So yes, in a way I’m barking up the wrong tree, so to speak.
But even if they culled it down to a more manageable 25 or 30 images, most of us would still just blast through them, nodding, and then forget all about it. At best we’d make a link on Twitter or Facebook, and then move on.
Compare that with the old school approach; print them up and hang them in a room. A gallery (not virtual). What would you do then? If you did visit the gallery, and if you liked the images, you would probably spend a lot more time with them. You’d walk around the room, pausing on the ones you liked best, move along to another. Come back to the ones you liked. Maybe you’d sit down (if benches were provided) and ponder them from a greater distance.
In other words, you’d spend more time with the images (plus you would get to see them in a larger and more detailed format). So which is better: having a hundred or so people really see your photos, or having thousands scan through them without paying much attention? As a photographer, I think I prefer the former.
You could argue that one does not exclude the possibility of the other; that putting them on the Web could in fact lead to more people showing up at the gallery to see the prints. That sounds good in theory, and for many artists it’s likely true. But for many people (myself included), the Web is the main venue for their work.
So what exactly am I saying? Well, three things, actually:
- People who put their photographic work up on the Web should make an effort to curate it properly. That means choosing well, presenting nicely, and not overwhelming the viewer with too many images.
- People who look at photographic work on the Web would be doing the photographers a big favor by slowing down and really looking at some of the images. Not necessarily all, but some. And leave a comment if the site allows it. Nobody wants their photographs to exist in a vacuum.
- Chistroprudov Dimitri’s photographs of Moscow are really awesome. Go spend some time with them.
(Note: despite the watermark on the photographs, Christoprudov Dimitri does not seem to have a Livejournal page.)