In 2018, it’s pretty difficult to imagine that there’s any chance in being unique. Most of the places on earth have been thoroughly scoured and studied and most of the species on earth have had names slapped on them.
I think I realized this as a kid, because I used to play a game with myself, which was trying to imagine who else had stood on the spot that I was standing. The more lonely the spot, the more fun the game, of course. Out in Eastern Oregon, it would be some pioneer woman on the Oregon Trail. On the coast, some explorer or cartographer.
In Seattle, I don’t really get to play that game. I know exactly who stood where, before me, usually because I had to jockey for the position in the first place. This was particularly evident to me at the University of Washington quad when I dragged myself out of bed before sunrise to go take photos of the cherry blossoms last month.
Since I’d seen pictures of the cherry blossoms on Instagram, I assumed I wouldn’t be alone in my pursuit of the delicate cream-colored petals. But by the time the sun was reaching the horizon, there were no less than two dozen photographers there with me, tripping over each others’ tripods and getting in each others’ shots. There was a wedding party. Two guys brought their bright red Ducati motorcycles and planted them right in the middle of the quad for their own little photo shoot. Pretty soon a campus cop car pulled up with its lights on, to question the guys about whether or not they drove their motorcycles onto the quad. It was visual mayhem. I’d never felt so unoriginal in my life.
I tried to make up for the unoriginal location by doing some double exposures and macro shots, but in the end the experience just left me feeling a bit hollow.
So here’s a question for 2018: In a world where everything’s already been done, how do you create? How do you write when you know you’ll just be compared to someone else? How do you make art when so many other people are making the same thing, but even better, faster, and cheaper? I think this is going to be the eternal question for current and future generations. What do you think?