1000 Words

Not what you’re thinking – although you can count them if you want – let me know what you come up with because i’m pretty sure that this software thingy completely makes up its word counts; MS Word certainly does – only last week it counted 97 words i’d written as 100, three times. So, if you’re in the process of knocking up your doctorate, be warned… by the time you get to 30 000 words, you’re going to be well under!

This post has nothing to do with words though, quite the opposite in fact. No, that’s wrong – the opposite of words is… er, no words? i dunno.

Let’s start again: today’s post is all about pictures.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, however it also has to be said that’s rather a sweeping generalisation. Pictures can indeed convey a wealth of information, feeling and detail – they can also, as anyone who’s attempted to follow the instructions for flatpack furniture will attest, speak a whole lot of garbage.

A Masterpiece - Only £50 000

The quality and content of any picture has a significant bearing upon what we, the viewer, read into it – a painting of a black cat in a coal cellar at the dead of night tells us, visually, very little. Interestingly, the same picture can be interpreted in myriad ways by the observer, who may come away having gained a vast new understanding of the universe. This is well understood by art galleries, who will happily hang any old tat on the walls and call it art, secure in the knowledge that legions of people will stand in front of them for hours, deep in thought, or heated debate and draw a wealth of meaning from whatever happens to be hung there…

“Well this is an interesting example of the Tarquinesque school of art… the subtleties of the weave, combined with the juxtaposition of the vivid, yet subtle mottling reminds me of the plaintive mew of a cat in a coal cellar…” – At which point, the cleaner walks past, grabs the ‘work of art’ and mutters something about, “So that’s where i left my dishcloth”.

Before we get hopelessly embroiled in the pros, cons and outright scams of the art world, perhaps it would be wise to narrow my theme, particularly since there’s one area in particular i want to consider. Photography has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, firstly with the advent of reasonably priced digital SLR cameras but, in the main, as a result of the market saturation by camera ‘phones. Now, practically anyone with a mobile is a potential photographer and, for the first time in history, it’s become possible to document the minutiae of pretty much every element of day-to-day life in blurry, wonky and even, occasionally pin-sharp detail. Consequently we see a proliferation of photographs, splurged across every conceivable social networking site, of drunken nights’ out, mediocre sunsets, cats doing not particularly interesting things and – my personal favourite – the ‘this is a picture of me in the mirror taking a picture of me’ shot, (let’s not dignify it with the label ‘self-portrait’). Suddenly everyone’s a photographer, model or visual comedian and everything, without exception, is apparently a ripe subject for digital immortality. Some might say that’s a good thing – others may disagree – i’m saying nothing!

This trend isn’t solely a real world phenomenon – a great many of us also feel the need to document our sl travels, escapades and activities in all their infinite detail; then having done so, we’ll do whatever we can to inflict our snaps upon anyone else who happens to be passing… handed out like cheap candy by way of inventory offers, FaceBore, Flickrstock and blog posts… Dammit, yes you caught me red-handed: guilty as charged, i’m afraid, but what the heck? Everyone else is at it too!

Art, or fart?

i am fairly choosy about what i inflict on others though – i try to keep it classy, apt and of interest to the recipient – hopefully, i succeed at least some of the time. However, i don’t labour under the misapprehension that the sl pictures i take are anything more than snapshots of limited interest. Occasionally, i’ll pull out the stops, mess around with Windlight, fiddle with my focus and play with my poses in an attempt to get something arty-farty; but, like most of us, the vast majority of my screencaps are grabbed on the fly, from less-than ideal positions – the sl equivalent of the wonky camera ‘phone snapshot – and i have millions of the damn things!

So do you.

We can try convince ourselves they’re something that they’re patently not – abstract observations of a virtual world; acerbic commentary on a pixel environment; images documenting a second life? ‘Course not… they’re snapshots that seemed like a good idea at the time! That’s not to say that you couldn’t produce some prizewinning documentary ‘photography‘ from sl – but that takes time, effort, planning and a great deal of luck, which might just detract from the fun a little.

All in all, it’s a pretty harmless pursuit that serves to enhance our enjoyment of the virtual landscape but i do sometimes despair when faced with the overwhelmingly huge content of my ‘textures’ folder or – worse still – the neatly organised and voluminous folders on my hard drives, creaking under the weight of all of those badly-named, yet terribly important images that are the painstakingly gathered, treasured stills from the machinima that is my second life. i do worry though, that with such an accumulation of images – (there’d be a heck of a lot less of them if we had to pay to download them, rather than upload – no Rodvik, that’s not a suggestion!) – in the long run, quantity will triumph over quality. Back in the good old days of film photography, every shot counted – film was too damn expensive to waste – with the advent of digital, you can just keep taking shots until you get the one that works, or the moment has passed. That means there’s a whole lot more dross out there than good – i wonder if the same is true of our record of sl?

Oops… there go my 1000 words (maybe). More on this tomorrow – gosh, look at me planning ahead and stuff! Whatever next?

s. x

They’re always watching me
Watching the things I do
Billy Bragg – Cindy Of A Thousand Lives

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