Sunday, September 20, 2015


We have this idea of fame which is essentially global in this modern era. Consider photographers. If you start poking around to see who the famous photographers are, you'll come across Adams pretty fast. Everyone's heard of Adams. Dig deeper, it doesn't matter where you are on earth, you might reasonably find Koudelka at some point. He's not a name everyone knows offhand, but his fame, such as it is, is global. He appears in the globally available resources and so on. You might say his famous is broad but shallow.

There's another kind of fame. A more local one, or at any rate more socially compact. Famous in your high school. Famous in your town. Famous among guitarists.

The difference here that I'm interested in is this: global fame is largely granted to the famous by tastemakers. You've got to be good, or at least interesting, but you've also got to be chosen. Local fame, contrariwise, is something you can control. Local fame, incidentally, is generated by genuine social contact whereas the global variety is a construct of the media. Global fame is a arguably a synthetic version of genuine fame, there's no social phenomenon involved. I don't know the Kardashians, I don't know anyone who knows the Kardashians.

Musicians, it is said, just need 1000 "true fans" (or maybe it's 100?). This is sort of false, as the conceit is that the band with this many true fans can make a living, and they can't quite.

A photographer saves a lot of money over a working musician, it turns out. A photographer is also but one mouth to feed, not the several that make up a band. Finally, a photographer might not even want to get a living, just some love.

100 true fans, willing to shell out $50 for a little book every couple of years would delight many of us.

More to the point, this is the world we live in now. The arbiters of global fame are conservative, and there's not a lot of room at the top. No more do we have a dozen top American photographers, a dozen British, a dozen on the continent, and so on. We've got a dozen total. The world is increasingly global and uniform, the regional ponds in which one can be a big fish are merging into a single ocean.

And yet in this era of global media, 1000 channels of television, and a million of YouTube, we are each of us our own channel.

You're reading my channel right now. Among my dozen regular readers, I am well known. I regret that I have nothing to sell you except an e-book you've probably already bought. Thanks! But that's pretty much it!

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