A Profusion of Pictures

No, not an obscure George RR Martin title, but a description of the mass of photography being made and shared every day. According to Michel Franck (2017) a single sharing site, Flickr, had an average of 1.7 million images uploaded per day in 2016, down slightly from a peak of 2 million per day in 2015.

This image, by Jesse Alexander and blogged by Gareth Dent (2013) shows an installation by Erik Kessels, ’24 hours of photographs’, being printouts of one day of Flickr uploads. Dent uses his blog post to ask why we take photographs, given the extent of the flood, and there is a fascinating comments thread, 44 posts over a week in 2013, that seeks to provide answers.

A slightly different question, asked by Joachim Schmid (Boothroyd, 2013) is ‘why do we all take the same photographs?’

Schmid collects (he prefers ‘gathers’) ‘found photographs’ – tens of thousands of them –  from jumble sales, flea markets and online sources and arranges them into typologies. For example, the set above, Archiv 321, is of small girls posing with their toy prams. Other archives show other common image types (bride-and-groom shots, camels at the Pyramids, cars and their owners, etc. (Schmid, 2007)) linked by similar subject matter, groupings, props and poses.

One answer to the question is that, with so many photographs taken per day, simple probability theory implies that many will be similar or near-identical.

Schmid himself does not give an answer; he seems more interested in observing than explaining, but there is a good comments thread to Boothroyd’s blog which refers to ‘appropriate photographic moments’ (rites of passage, preservation of happy memories etc.) and maybe it is simply a matter of many people in modern society living very similar lives.


Boothroyd, S. (2013) An interview with Joachim Schmid. Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/an-interview-with-joachim-schmid/ (Accessed: 11 February 2017

Dent, G. (2013) Dealing with the flood.. [online at] https://weareoca.com/photography/people-are-hungry-for-stories/ (Accessed: 11 February 2017).

Franck, M. (2017) How many public photos are uploaded to Flickr every day, month, year? [online at] https://www.flickr.com/photos/franckmichel/6855169886 (Accessed: 11 February 2017).

Schmid, J. (2007) Archiv (1986–1999). Available at: https://schmid.wordpress.com/works/1986-1999-archiv/ (Accessed: 11 February 2017)