What is meant by “global image”?
One possible view is that the term “global image” refers to the kind of images that arise universally throughout the world wherever people take photographs with a camera, images where the subject is different but the purpose for taking the photograph is held in common.
For an entity to have uptake on a global scale it must have universal appeal. It must fulfil a need that transcends geographical and cultural barriers.
Global imagery arises from people’s desire to document, in a visual form, the world around them. There is a common interest in the human condition which is not bound by but instead accommodates cultural diversity – whilst the subject may change from region to region the wish to record our lives and our environment remains constant. This common interest has been referred to as “universalism”. Barthes in his 1973 book ‘Mythologies’ argued that such a universal requirement is no more than “ambiguous myth” but, undeniably, there exists a wish, observable repeatedly on a global scale, to capture specific types of images. This wish is being fulfilled by photographers on both professional and non-professional levels.
When viewed retrospectively, early photography was a cumbersome process but the benefits that it offered in comparison to any form of visual representation that preceded it were that it was fast and it was cheap. Factors which gave photography huge popular appeal from the outset.
Simple photographic images taken using mobile telephones and basic digital cameras can now be made and shared across the world in seconds. Fundamentally though, today’s digital imaging owes its rise in popularity, its rise in becoming ubiquitous, to the same reasons that made early photography so popular.
The first image I wish to share is a portrait of my daughter, Caitlin.
Morris, 2010. Caitlin
This image is a representative example of people’s desire to document those with whom they share their lives – a need as valid and as widespread today as in the early days of photography.
From its inception, people found that sitting for an early photograph, even with its long exposure time, was still a faster process than undertaking multiple sittings for a portrait. A photographer with a camera could produce more images per unit of time than could an artist with brush and paint, and so, because of the economics of supply and demand, with speed came a price affordable by most people and, with this, came accessibility.
Today, accessibility is delivered through a new form of technology: built in cameras mean that anyone with a mobile telephone can find a portrait opportunity wherever and whenever they encounter people, social media provides almost limitless opportunities for the resultant images to be shared.
The second image I wish to share is a documentary type photograph.
Morris, 2016. Samphire
This second image is a still life of some marsh samphire – an edible species of plant whose growth is unique to the British Isles. It is an example of the kind of image that captures a subject that is unique to a particular geographical location and allows it to be viewed by people in other regions of the world.
In the 19th century, few people were able to go out and see the world. If the people couldn’t go to the world, photography brought the world to the people and with their “eyes opened”, the people began to want to explore the wider world in which they lived through the medium of photography.
Today people still rely upon photography as a means to explore the natural world or remain informed about events in distant places.
In conclusion then, photography has found widespread use since its formative days in the 19th century.
Parallels can be drawn between the widespread use of photography in its early stages and in the modern digital age. These parallels arise due to the common driving factors of speed, affordability and accessibility.
Irrespective of geographical location, humans have a commonly held desire to document themselves and their lives. Consequently, the new technologies – photography in the 19th century and digital imaging in contemporary times – have been globally embraced as a form of visual communication.
In short, since its inception, photographic technology has provided arguably the most accessible and readily used means of satisfying the human need to visually record our time on Earth.