Blake Andrews just published a post, writing “reinterpretation threatens to overtake generation as the dominant creative act in photography.” Should we be worried? I don’t think so. Looking over the many, many submissions for the Conscientious Portfolio Competition this year, only a miniscule fraction - a handful maybe - involved reinterpretation. The rest - the vast majority: Plain “good old” photography. Of course, that might mean very little. But I think if somehow reinterpretation was about to overtake generation as the dominant mode in photography I would see many more submissions based on albums, old photos, or screen shots of webcams or Google Street View. (more)
What is more, I think many people seem to think that if you find an old album all it takes to reinterpret that is to scan the stuff and make a book. Not so. Erik Kessels owns thousands of old family albums (stored in some warehouse - watch De Kijk of Kessels if you can get hold of the DVD), but only a small fraction makes it into books. The actual act of creating something worthwhile out of old photographs is very, very hard - unless you’re happy with really just releasing a collection of funny pictures. I haven’t talked to Alec Soth about this, but I think this is an extension of what he meant when he said “In the digital age, anyone can make a picture but it does take some knowledge to edit a project.” (source, via Andrews’ post). It’s the same difficulty photographers face when editing: Creating a good, working edit can be tremendously difficult - even if you have great photographs.
So I’m really not so worried. Photography is not going to go away, and reinterpretation is not going to replace the actual process of taking photographs. Reinterpretation merely adds a new, interesting facet to working with images.