Monday, December 07, 2009

The rise of visual wall paper?

Still mulling over the issues that I began to discuss in Sunday Essay - the importance of visual images. I said early in the post: 

To say that today we live in a very visual world is a bit of a truism. We are saturated with images. Yet what is far from clear is the extent to which individual images retain their power when the visual is so dominant in a general sense. We may well be imaged out!

While I think that this statement is probably correct, I also think that I am guilty of mixing different things together.

To begin with something that I am reasonably confident about, I do think that the sheer scale of visual imagery leads to a degree of blurring in which styles and patterns become lost.

However, this does not, of itself, mean that individual images themselves have necessarily lost power.

When I began this particular thought stream, I had in mind some of the changing images of Australia and Australian life. It seemed to me that as the visual world proliferated, so had the images of Australia become more standardised, less varied, less distinctive.

The visual world as we know it today is quite new. In the past people had access to far less visual material. I know that this seems self-evident, but I am not sure that we fully understand the implications.

When visual images were fewer, they were far more studied.

The world's first illustrated weekly, the Illustrated London News, began in 1842. The first crude colour printing dates to 1843, the first photograph appeared in a newspaper in 1880. This is all very recent.

The new visual images were perused and re-perused. They had impact because they were so new. Individual illustrations were remembered and discussed. Painters and photographers moved around the country recording to help meet a hungry marketplace.

The position today is obviously very different. I don't know about you, but I am actually hard pressed to remember a single image from the last week. Visual images have, I think, become visual wall paper.      

No comments: