If someone asked you how many pictures are uploaded to Flickr in a typical day, the answer “lots” would be a fair, if rather unspecific, response. It appears that artist Erik Kessels not only wanted to know how many photos are uploaded, but also how it would look if he printed all of them. So, armed with a printer, a ton of paper and several gallons of ink, he set about printing every photo put up on Flickr in a single 24-hour period.
The result of his work, which fills several rooms at the Foam photography gallery in Amsterdam, may alarm those for whom the welfare of trees is an important issue. Kessels’ installation, comprising somewhere in the region of a million images, forms part of the gallery’s What’s Next? exhibition, which examines the future of photography.
“We’re exposed to an overload of images nowadays,” Kessels told Creative Review. “This glut is in large part the result of image-sharing sites like Flickr, networking sites like Facebook, and picture-based search engines. Their content mingles public and private, with the very personal being openly and un-selfconsciously displayed. By printing all the images uploaded in a 24-hour period, I visualise the feeling of drowning in representations of other peoples’ experiences.”
At least Kessels didn’t have the idea to print out every single photo currently hosted on the popular photo sharing service, as that would have required enough paper and ink for six billion photos.
Indeed, it’s just as well that, with the digital revolution, we lost the urge and the need to print every photo we take. For most of us, shooting a pic on our smartphone or compact camera and uploading it to the Internet for friends and family (and strangers too) to view on a screen works just fine.