This Picture explored the breadth of response a single image can trigger. Over the course of a year, the Hillman Photography Initiative widely distributed a new photograph each month through various media and distribution channels. We encouraged you, if you were intrigued by what you see, to use the website to respond to those images in any way or format that you liked, including text, photos, videos, and audio files.
More than a billion photographs are made every day, hundreds of millions of which are shared on social media. If there is a phone in your pocket or nearby, it is likely that an equally startling number of photographic images are stored on it. That so many pictures are produced and the fact that they come and go quickly is no longer newsworthy, but today’s traffic in imaging does have profound personal, social, and cultural meaning. Photographic images are central to the shaping and conduct of our lives. But surprisingly, given their importance, we tend to look at them hastily. Recent studies by neuroscientists reveal that we see and can identify the basic subject matter in a photograph in just a few thousandths of a second. What those findings also suggest is that for all the impact photographic images have, we do not devote much time to thinking and talking about where their power comes from, how and why they work, and what makes them so attractive and important to us. We should.
The goal of This Picture was to gather responses that, taken together, created the platform for a lively and unprecedented dialogue about photography’s use, influence, and the changing nature of the medium. With your help, explored a number of questions, such as: What is visible in a photograph and what lies beneath its surface? What causes a photograph to be made? To have impact? To be remembered? What influences the things we see in the pictures we encounter? What do we expect from the pictures we make? What kinds of lives do photographic images themselves live? How does their form and meaning change over time?
“The more we are able to read images and understand how they work within our culture, then the more empowered we will be as individuals,” the artist John Baldessari once said. Keeping that in mind, This Picture became a unique opportunity to reflect upon how photography has been used as a documentary and expressive tool in the past and how, in a digital age, we can more actively experience and interact with the medium. Photography, as so many have noted, may freeze time, but the form, meaning, and our relationships to photographic images keep changing.
As a result, each photograph presented in This Picture was more than a picture. Each one was visually striking in different ways, reflected a variety of values and intentions, and was made to capture attention and trigger response. What you saw depended on who you are, what you were looking for or cared about, or what you were trained or prompted to see. We are thrilled that you joined us this past year to explore the monthly selections featured as part of This Picture.