We say photographs are worth a thousand words. Or at least we used to say that, until Twitter came along and told everyone: “no actually.. photos are worth just 22 characters.” And a few month later they informed everyone they changed their minds and photos were worth nothing.

So what’s the value of photographs in an age where billions of images are uploaded every day on social media platforms? The number is so big that it’s incomprehensible to the human brain. We simply can’t grasp it. A while ago an artist tried to make sense of it and decided to print every single photo uploaded on Flickr in 24 hours. This was the result.

Picture by Erik Kessels

He filled up an entire room with an avalanche of photographs. And if you look close enough, most photos are not impactful at all, but their collective mass is what makes us stop and think. We are extremely visual beings, to the point that more than half of our brain’s computational power is dedicated to sight. We’re designed to rely heavily on our eyes because they’re the door through which we make sense of the world and we are convinced that seeing is believing . We are obsessed with images because that’s how we understand the things around us, and through them we connect, we share our lives to make sure your friend from high school you haven’t spoken to in years sees the avocado toast you’re having for brunch #nofilter. We want to show everyone our day to day, because if there are no photos of it, it never happened, because photos don’t lie.

Or do they?

Watch Rubens full TEDxTalk


About Ruben Salvadori

Ruben Salvadori is an Italian media professional and photojournalist known for his project ‘Photojournalism Behind the Scenes’, through which he challenged the dramatic aesthetics of conflict images and the expectation of objective truth by including the photographer in the frame. He has ignited a discussion about the ethics of the profession and the need for the audience to be an active viewer by acknowledging the inevitable subjectivity of the photographic medium.