More Is Less

I have a friend who knows a good deal about the history of photography who revealed to me that around 1910s the Kodak book of photographic papers had 120 listed papers but by the 1980s when photography had left the preserve of the few and become a mass market experience the number had gone down to 6. This degrading of choice is very interesting in a market where ‘choice’ is bandied about as one of its virtues, and there is a lot of choice, there just isn’t a great deal of value.

The reason I point this out is because I do not actually understand why there should be a decrease in the availability of lots of choices just because something goes mass market, except for the fact that the mass market includes many non-experts and non-enthusiasts and they don’t actually know they are being short changed. The reduction in anything mass produced is only viable in a mass market that is largely ignorant.  After all how many people would know the differences in grains and the variety of results that 120 papers can give over 6 when all they want is the family Christmas photographs.

This is why mass market appeal and art don’t mix, because art always knows the differences. In fact art know 120 papers is not enough.

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May 2011
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