For a recent talk, I decided to play into the numbers game. I'm sure you're aware of it, it's about the "vast" number of photographs taken. A Buzzfeed article from 2012 provided the data. According to the piece the number of photographs taken per year were:
1930: about 1 billion photos taken per year
1960: about 3 billion photos taken per year
1970: about 10 billion photos taken per year
2000: about 86 billion photos taken per year
2012: more than 380 billion photos per year
Let's assume that the numbers are roughly corrected (maybe in the sense astronomers use such numbers: they might be off by a factor of 2 or so, but the order of magnitude is correct). But the numbers don't really tell us much, if anything. Three hundred eighty billion sounds impressive, but what does it mean? So I thought I'd try to do a little conversion. For each of those years, I divided the numbers by the number of people alive, in other words the total global population. Of course, not every person on this planet owns and/or uses a camera. But that's not really the point. The point is, instead, to factor out population growth, and the idea is to get numbers that one can actually relate to. Here they are:
1930: about 0.5 pic per person alive taken per year
1960: about 1 pic per person alive taken per year
1970: about 2.7 pix per person alive taken per year
2000: about 14 pix per person taken per year (or roughly 1 every month)
2012: more than 54 pix per person alive per year (or roughly 1 every week)
So we've gone from 1 photo per year for every person alive in the planet in 1960 to 1 photo per month in 2000 to 1 photo per week in 2012 (keep in mind there's a little bit of rounding off going in, but it's really about the general idea). Now those are numbers one can remember.
And you can say whatever you want, while that is a tremendous increase, if you look at the numbers today this is not such a huge number. Collectively, humanity takes roughly 1 photo every week per person. Of course, some people take a lot more, while others take none. But it's a simple number to remember.
The numbers must have gone up since 2012, and it would be quite interesting to break these numbers down a bit more. But another point I'm trying to make is that the idea of a "flood" of photographs seems misguided (it's also not now, people in the 1930s were already complaining about it). Even the World Press Photo jury only manages to look at 100,000 photos in two weeks (and they have to). For most of us, it's a lot less.