The summer project we were given in uni to work on over the summer was to start researching, looking at and producing work that would see us through our final year and form our final piece, preferably in line with our dissertation which should lead on from our Literature Review that we wrote in the final term of our second year (you can read mine here ). I wrote about snapshots and how the introduction of technologies, such as the camera phone and DSLR’s, software like Photoshop and photo-sharing (Facebook and Instagram for example) have changed how we take, manipulate and share images. Many family photo albums have ceased to exist once film cameras have been replaced by digital capture devices, instead these images remain stored as digital data on computers and discs, a selection being uploaded to be shared with friends on social networking sites.
With this train of thought going on, I have started to turn my attention to the actual images we share. With software such as Photoshop becoming more affordable and easy to use we can manipulate images we take , never having to share a bad photo again. I have noticed that many of my friends now go through their images with a fine tooth comb, editing sometimes to the same degree that an advertising image may be edited, before sharing. Gone are the photos of us with less than perfect skin/teeth/hair etc, as to are the badly framed images where peoples heads are not in the shot, blurry images and those “happy accidents” where the camera has miss-fired and captured something we didn’t mean to capture. Much of this is down to the image taking capabilities and the method of shooting. With film cameras we did not have the means to review an image straight away, and the cost meant we couldn’t take images one after the other after the other like we can now. With film, people were limited to 24 or 36 shots per roll (35mm film) and depending on how much film you could afford to purchase and then pay to get developed, now with digital image taking you are only limited by how many images you can fit onto a memory card or the battery life of your camera.
Anyway, back to images we share, which I’m thinking is where I am going to be focusing my energy for this project and dissertation work…
I keep seeing this image (above,The Treachery of Images (This is not a pipe) by Rene Magritte) and I am beginning to form links with images we see today. (Rene Magritte was a surrealist painter from Belgium who lived between 1898 and 1967, the image is currently on display in LA County Museum of Art) . The image makes us question our relationship to images, this is a pipe, but it’s not a pipe, it is not the actual object but a representation of that object. In the same way, with photo editing software, we an question photographs and other images we see today, flaws an be removed, skin and eyes made brighter, teeth whitened, people slimmed, backgrounds changed, people an be edited out – a pretty endless list of changes can be made to an image before being shared to the public domain. Any image we view now needs to be viewed in the same way as Rene’s work as many of the images we see are just representations, not a actual truth which could be captured and less easily manipulated when using film to make images.
With film though, and its the same with digital image capture, as a viewer we are never really sure if an image has been staged to look a certain way or if it is spontaneous, for example, I could decorate my house out with all the Christmas paraphernalia and take images supposedly showing the festive season but have taken them in June… the viewer could come to the conclusion that the images were actually made in December but the truth is way out.
This all then brings me to advertising campaigns, with all this photo-editing going on in our own homes, and fairly easily at that given that there are you tube tutorials for just about anything and everything you could ever want to do, we, as viewers are more likely to question adverts. But this is not my point… With all images being edited to some extent or other, our “snapshots” that we share have become an advert, something carefully constructed, and thought about in terms of how we are seen in these images by the viewers of them. As image takers and sharers we are fully aware of what the images we are seen in say about us. We want to be like the models in adverts with the perfect skin, glossy hair, having fun, being fashionable, being popular etc… that we only ever share the best images of us.
Anyway, this is just a few of the thoughts going around in my head at the moment with regard to my dissertation…
For the project that runs alongside my dissertation I have been looking at film snapshots and Corrine Day in particular as she has shot many projects in the style of snapshot photography, Diary (some images from this project can be viewed on her site here) being one of them. I am unsure which direction to go in with snapshot photography as I have a few directions and interests on this subject – one of those being to take my own snapshots and focus, possibly, on re-creating or making snapshots of everything I would normally use digital imaging for, or look at the extinction of film photography and photographs, family albums as actual objects, and old film created photographs as the precious objects they once were.