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Monday, November 11, 2013

Your Fifteen Minutes Has Started

In 1968, Andy Warhol famously stated that, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes."

If Warhol was wrong about anything, it was that fifteen minutes wasn't long enough.

Pop-art prophet?

Here it is, the Year of Our Lord two thousand and thirteen, and you know something? Warhol was right. Last night I watched 60 Minutes. Two of the segments juxtaposed themselves on my Stream of Consciousness and gave me what some refer to as an a-ha moment. It's taken me until today to write about it because these two segments were aired in kind of a reverse order so that my a-ha wasn't immediately apparent.

In reverse, the second segment chronicled how photographer Henry Grossman became friends with the Beatles and was given unparalleled photographic access to the Fab Four. At the age of 22 or 23 Grossman was also one of the primary photographers for President John F. Kennedy. The Beatles and Kennedy photos aired on 60 Minutes certainly brought back feelings of nostalgia. They also began to germinate into an idea that helps illustrate the massive cultural shift we have undergone.

The full segment can be viewed at the 60 Minutes site

Earlier in last night's program, the first segment that aired profiled Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro. Woodman says in the program, "Before GoPro, if you wanted to have any footage of yourself doing anything, whether it's video or photo, you not only needed a camera, you needed another human being. And if you wanted the footage to be good, you needed that other human being to have skill with the camera. The result was that most people never had any footage of themselves doing anything."

Just head over to YouTube and enter the search term Go Pro. You'll find about fifteen million results that will let you see the power in Woodman's little dynamo of a camera. It will take you longer than fifteen minutes to get through all of that I'm sure.

This guy seriously deserves to be famous

Somewhere between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the focus of photography has shifted. Sure, there is still an overwhelming amount of celebrity photography out there; but even that has undergone a transformation from the iconic, composed images of photographers like Grossman to the frenetic and invasive portraits hocked to an ever-eager, voyeuristic public by the paparazzi. But with the advent of GoPro, YouTube and social networking, our collective fifteen minutes has now begun in earnest.

In the twentieth century, photos available to the public generally captured the essence of people who were considered celebrities or other humans of note. These might include politicians, scientists, military leaders, athletes, and of course, actors, actresses, and musicians.

John Kennedy

But nowadays, the pictures are of us (as well as all those others).

Jon Gordner (and friend)

What is it that drives us to put ourselves out there for the world to see? Is it ego? Is it loneliness? Do we even worry about those things anymore? With the advent of endless reality (sic) and talent shows, and the 24-7 news cycle, is this open display of our life events the new normal?

Random guy Jon (above) captured himself and his canine buddy with the newest photographic trend: the selfie. You know the one. At least he's not pouting. I don't know Jon. I searched Google Images for random people, and thought he represented well. It's not necessarily that we're all attention hounds - although I'm convinced some are - it's just that we blog (as Jon does), we post on Facebook Pinterest, etc., and through the power of the Internet, what we may have created and posted just to share with friends and family is all of a sudden out there.

I mean, think about it; would we ever have been subjected to Bieber without YouTube? And who can forget these guys...

Perhaps the best thing about this video is the young man in the background. He's a twentieth century man and could care less about his mates' rise to YouTube fanboy fame.

Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, a German art historian and Modern Art professor at Harvard, suggests:

"...that the core tenet of Warhol's aesthetic, being "the systematic invalidation of the hierarchies of representational functions and techniques" of art, corresponds directly to the belief that the "hierarchy of subjects worthy to be represented will someday be abolished," hence anybody, and therefore "everybody," can be famous once that hierarchy dissipates, "in the future," and by logical extension of that, "in the future, everybody will be famous," and not merely those individuals worthy of fame."

That's some heavy stuff right there but I think it captures the gist of this cultural shift I'm writing about and the genius of Warhol's statement. We have reached a future in which everybody can be famous. And that positions us to be disappointed if we're not.

Am I disappointed with my not-famousness? To echo my Asian friends above: I want it that way.

What do you think?


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