Forced Hiatus from Blogging

I’ve really missed blogging here and writing about my projects and haven’t blogged since November 2013, nearly 4 months ago 😦  I’ve missed writing for fun but had to take a forced hiatus of sorts as I had to write my dissertation for uni.  This is now complete and over with now and I can begin to ease myself back into blogging about things I love!  😀

I suppose, as my dissertation took up so much of my time and became my life for such a long time I should let you all know what it was about…  The title for my dissertation was “The Self Portrait and The Selfie”  which sums it up in a manner.  I chose the subject of the Selfie as I have been interested in social media and the selfie for as long as I can remember, not because it fascinated me but because I just didn’t understand why people want to take selfies and post them all the time,  I got myself an iPhone and an Instagram account (@siouxsietench if you want to follow me!  I follow back in most cases…) and so began my own journey into the world of selfies.  My dissertation split down into  3 main chapters, Chapter 1 looked at Self Portraits and the history behind them, from paintings to photography and the shift in technology that helped push photographic images of the self into the mainstream arena.  Chapter 2 was about the Selfie today and how social media (focusing mainly on Instagram) and mobiles have become acceptable ways of taking and sharing the selfie image, how the way we label images changes our perception and interaction with the image and others and how it has become popular culture, Chapter 3 looked at the future of the selfie with regard to developing technologies and movements within the context of the selfie and how we label them (ie; using the # not just as a way to label images but to become a platform for communities to chat about shared ideas (see #felfie )  I quoted Kesha along the way and also linked to the Chainsmokers #Selfie song too….

And eventually I finished.  8989 words later it has been printed and bound and submitted for marking and I’m so relieved.  I can’t say that the process has been enjoyable, for me it has been a struggle to meet the word count as I really don’t like using too many words when a few will suffice so a lot of time was spent expanding on my sentence structures.  My lecturer said that I’d chosen a difficult subject to write about as it wasn’t “static”, which, at the time I didn’t understand.  I know what she meant by “static” now though, in that the #selfie is fairly new and there is so much being written about them in newspapers and magazines, blogs and books at the moment, there has been a bombardment of opinions about the topic and that has been a hard thing to negotiate.  But its finished now and I can get back to doing stuff I love, like blogging and art!  😀

 

#selfie

Literature Review – How Social Media and Technology Have Created a Shift In The Family Album and Snapshots

This is the literature review I wrote as part of my second year in Photo Art (BA) .  I thought I would share as it links in with the work I have been doing under the main title of “Voyeurism, Surveillance and Control” where I was looking at the role of Facebook in data collecting and how social media links in with ideas surrounding voyeurism, surveillance and control.  From that I started looking at what else we share, from that I came to look at images and how we share them, from snapshots we made using film (35mm/120mm and other films) to digital media sharing of today.  I am fairly pleased with the grade and feedback I had from this essay (B12, which means a mid B!) as I was worried that the subject I had chosen was too big to talk about in 3500 words (excluding quotes) however, this now gives me leeway with writing my dissertation which I am going to be branching out from this subject further and looking more at modern ways of sharing and how the shift in technology has affected the ideas behind the term “snapshot”.

How Social Media and Technology Have Created a Shift In The Family Album and Snapshots.

 


 

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 – The History of Photography and the Family Album
  • Chapter 2 – The Family Album and Technology
  • Chapter 3 – The Snapshot
  • Chapter 4 – Kodak Culture
  • Chapter 5 – Image Making And Editing
  • Chapter 6 – Sharing Images
  • Chapter 7 – Photo Editing, Technology and the Home Today
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography


 

Introduction

 

I have based my reading around the topic of social media and snapshots as I feel that this is a really big trend in the 21st century and is also one that is set to continue as the technology shifts to create better cameras and easier ways of sharing images.  So far we have witnessed the rise of the device-attached camera, such as those on the mobile phone device, MP3 players (like the iPod) and even camera’s on laptops and computers.  Most of these devices can now easily connect to the internet, most mobiles, and some computers have in built internet (mobile phone SIM packages and the invention of the Internet Dongle) which has then impacted on how we both take, and share images, to the extent that the traditional ‘Family Album’ does not readily exist in the same format anymore, it has become no longer a treasured object but a mass of data saved on a hard-drive or existing on the world wide web somewhere.

With these thoughts in mind I have predominantly based my reading around a book by Risto Sarvas and David M. Frohlich which deals with the shift in technology and snapshot photography – “From Snapshots To Social Media – The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography”. This book was published in 2011 by Springer.  As it was published quite recently, the book not only deals with fairly current topics but also gives historic information about the technology used in creating an image and talks about the changing role of the photograph from daguerreotypes, calotypes and other early means of photography to where photography is today, what photographs mean, how shifts in technology have both influenced and shifted photographic means and how this has affected the idea of the family album and even on to where photography may be headed in the future.

I start this literary review with the history of photography, not only as it is covered in the first chapter in the book “From Snapshots to Social Media” but also because without understanding the history of photography, the camera and the image we would not be able to understand how we are where we are today in the terms of sharing images, photography and the means with which we share our images.  Without the history of photography to build upon images and the sharing of photos would look totally different, for society and for us personally.

 

The History of Photography and the Family Album

 

“From Snapshot to Social Media” talks about Family Albums and how through a need for storage of images that they came to be produced, “The tremendous popularity of the carte-de-visite, which was termed ‘cartomania bought about the birth of another key element of domestic photography; the family album.”  “The paper albumen prints, of which cartes were one type, required no case but were kept in albums for protection, and importantly, as a convenient way of showing and storing the images.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer)

The carte’s are described as “a photograph of a certain size and material: a 63mm x 100mm (2.5” x 4”) albumen print photograph pasted on a slightly larger piece of cardboard.  A carte was the size of a visiting card, and initially the photographs were used as such.  However, the small size proved more important in bringing down the price and costs of photography.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer)  Carte’s and their production were important in changing the distribution of photographs and photography, whereas once only the elite members of society could afford to have their image made (such as with the means of daguerreotypes), the production and relative cheapness of cartes meant that more people than before could afford to have their images taken, and even collect and distribute images to family and friends.  Cartes were a turning point for photography and the sharing of images in general.   The colleting of images and storing of images led to the family album, which not only documented the family life but all things meaningful to the family in general.  The book “From Snapshots to Social Media” explains “The public image of the domestic was presented in the same format and in the same book as the public images of members of aristocracy, celebrities, statesmen, clergymen, and scientists, along with views, events, news, and moralising or humour-focused commentaries.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer)   It was not just photographs of immediate family that were collected but other influencing role models that had currency in the families beliefs and social ideals were collated together too.   This meant that anyone who shared in the viewing of the family album could understand, not just the fundamentals of the family but their social standing and the belief systems that they subscribe to.  The paragraph then goes on to draw parallels with photographs used on social media sites today “As mentioned, much as do the twenty-first century’s social networking service profile pages,  which present the person; his or her social network; and the larger-scale public figures, events, news, etc. that he or she supports or values.   Also, both cartes and the profile pictures on the Internet adhere to a specific visual code, the purpose of which is to declare one’s belonging to a specific social group or class.”  This is a very relevant point that has been outlined in this comparison as we can see how historical means of photography has influenced, and in some ways remained the same, although the means of viewing the image may have changed, from actual photographs to images displayed on-screen, the way the subject is perceived is still as important today as back then.  It is also an interesting point that is made, that the albums of old and the images shared on social media networks have the same point, both are used to define who we are, what we are about, our beliefs, class, sub-cultures we may subscribe to and any other factors that an act as a visual representation of who we are and what we stand for.  Today images are still stored at home, “People go abroad and take photographs, then return home to view, show, share, and store the captured pictures.  The cameras, photo albums, prints, printers, computers, mobile phones, television sets, and other photographic technologies can all be taken out of the home space, but they do ‘live’ at home as much as the owners of these technologies.  Their resting place is at home.”(RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer).  While the images still exist, they are stored in a much different way.

 

 

 

The Family Album and Technology

 

Through the birth and development of technology, the traditional photo album has ceased to be a popular choice; many people now use computers to store their many photographs, the images staying as computer files instead of actual objects.  However, in order to keep the images in some sort of system they are stored in file systems on the computer or uploaded to the internet, social media sites in particular (ie Facebook) and stored in virtual “Albums” which still have the same meaning and read in a similar way to the albums of previous years.  People still want to share their ideas, beliefs, social standing, culture, etc, with friends and that has been made easier through technological developments over time.  The whole concept of the family album, sharing who we are and what we are about, then leads us into the sharing of our images, which is discussed further in the next paragraph.

“The albums had a more social and interactive function as well.  They were a source of entertainment and stimuli for conversation, (Wichard and Wichard 1999), and the albums also encouraged the practice of exchanging photographs amongst family and friends.  … Therefore, the album contained the images not only of public figures, and members of the family, but of friends and relatives as well.  Effectively, the family album became a catalogue of who belongs to the family, who their acquaintances are, and the wider public context the family wants to associate itself with.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer).   From this explanation of the Family Album and its functions we can apply this to images on social media today.  In such a way, the images we share on social media networks has not moved on from the past, we still want to be associated with certain ideologies, and want to control the context in which the viewer perceives us.  It is interesting, then, to note that it is not just images of family, friends and other people that are shared that add to this perception, brands and products are also photographed.  You only need to look at photographs people share on social networking to see that this whole idea prevails today, for example, young people making images of their Starbucks coffees, there is a whole connotation surrounding coffee, that it is sophisticated and classy, and grown up, then there is the connotation of the Starbucks brand – their mission statement “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” (Mission Statement | Starbucks Coffee Company. 2013. Mission Statement | Starbucks Coffee Company. [ONLINE] Available at:http://starbucks.co.uk/about-us/company-information/mission-statement. [Accessed 04 April 2013].) straight away conjures up images of being hand crafted, special, one of a kind, artisan, but also the general ideas surrounding the Starbucks brand, one of expense, luxury, sophistication,  are also ideals that people want to be associated with. By taking photos of these things, the photographer, themselves, is creating their own unique ideas of themselves for other people to see.

While I am looking at the similarities in traditional family albums and how they still bare similarities to image sharing on social media it is worth investigating and noting women’s role in the up-keep of the family album.  “The role of women in the early decades of snapshot photography gradually was formed into the role of curators of the family photo albums.  Both men and women photographed, but the family album was typically left to the mother of the family.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer).  Although the idea of the family album has changed from being one of a physical object to one that is now predominantly kept online, women, more than men still seem to be the main curators, for example on Facebook the average woman uploads 347 images and is tagged in 73 whereas men upload on average 179 images and are tagged in just 35 (Number of photos per Facebook user 2011 | Statistic. 2013. • Number of photos per Facebook user 2011 | Statistic. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.statista.com/statistics/181756/number-of-photos-uploaded-and-linked-by-facebook-users/. [Accessed 20 March 2013].) I am not sure whether this is down to women having more accounts on Facebook than men (52% of users are women compared to 48% of men (• Number of photos per Facebook user 2011 | Statistic. 2013. • Number of photos per Facebook user 2011 | Statistic. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.statista.com/statistics/181756/number-of-photos-uploaded-and-linked-by-facebook-users/ . [Accessed 20 March 2013].) which is not a great percentage difference but in terms of actual figures can be considered a lot when you understand that Facebook has over 1.2 Billion users worldwide (United Kingdom Facebook Statistics by Countries | Socialbakers. 2013. United Kingdom Facebook Statistics by Countries | Socialbakers. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics/united-kingdom . [Accessed 16 March 2013].)) or whether it is down to women being more sociable and wanting to share occasions with their friends.  It can be argued that women have continued with the role as curator of the family album and have adapted this role to fit with social media or it could be that women are just more sociable in today’s modern society built on social media and networking. (Women update their Facebook status on average 21 times per month whereas men only update their status on average 6 times per month in comparison (Facebook: A Profile of its ‘Friends’ In light of…. 2013. Facebook: A Profile of its ‘Friends’ In light of…. [ONLINE] Available at: http://pewinternet.tumblr.com/post/23177613721/facebook-a-profile-of-its-friends-in-light-of . [Accessed 04 March 2013].).  From these figures it can be seen that women have adapted and adopted social media as another tool in keeping in touch with friends and family.

 

 

The Snapshot

 

From looking at the history and relationships between the family album and the role of photographs in social media, it is important to look at the actual type of photography that is being used in both the family album and the images shared on line.  The type of photography that is being used in both fits in to the genre of snapshot or domestic photography.   The book ‘From Snapshots to Social Media’ describes the term “domestic photography” as being “used to describe the photographic activities of ordinary people taking and using images for non-professional purposes. Also in our use of the term we focus on the kind of use in which photography is not a hobby as such but embedded in other activities.  The word ‘domestic’ implies that the activity takes place mainly in the home, and the home is the headquarters for this activity.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer) The same book uses a similar definition in explaining snapshot photography “(i.e., unskilled amateurs taking images with their own cameras).” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer)  In other words, both of the definitions given mean the same thing and have the same characteristics and can be spoken in the same way with the same effects being given.  While we are defining the meaning of snapshot photography it is important to note other’s definition of the term “snapshot”.  The book “Photography, Theoretical Snapshots” speaks of the term as being used “to describe an amateur form of image-making, requiring little or no photographic skill on the part of the photographer.” (JJ LONG, ANDREA NOBLE & EDWARD WELCH. 2009. Photography, Theoretical Snapshots. New York. Routledge).  It is interesting to note that all definitions are similar in that they both define the snapshot to being an image made by ordinary people, with no formal qualifications in photography, and producing images for no financial benefit.  The benefits of such photography is mainly along the lines of documentation, of taking photos of meaningful family moments, of capturing occasions and holidays, family, friends and relatives, to enrich and add to a long standing family history and tradition.

Because snapshots are taken by unskilled amateurs there are mistakes made along the way during image creation.  Half of the appeal of snapshots can be the technical failings, and are easily recognisable when looking at any family album. “…most family photographs are not particularly distinguished on the level of technical skill or approach.  We may wish in retrospect that we had taken extra care in composing a photograph of our friends and families, that the regular mishaps of a finger over the lens or ‘red-eye’ had been avoided.  But ultimately these are not the criteria by which such photographs succeed or fail for us.  What is important is the presence of loved ones at a significant event or moment that prompted the taking of an image…We generally take pictures at symbolic points in family life, at times when we acknowledge our relationship bonds and social achievements.  They are moments we want to hold onto, emotionally and visually.  Typically the situations are shared cultural events: throwing confetti after a wedding ceremony, blowing out candles on a birthday cake, serving a meal at religious festivals.  Or they demarcate our rites of passage: a new-born baby being bought home, a ride on a new bicycle, a grandparent teaching a child to read or tie shoelaces. ” (Charlotte Cotton. 2009. The Photograph as Contemporary Art. 2nd Edition. UK. Thames and Hudson).  We still take photographs of all of these kinds of events, however the margin of error has been narrowed by developments in technology where we can review the image we have taken immediately, re-shoot, re-compose or edit at a later time.  There is less worry placed upon cost of film, not knowing if the image you have created is free from imperfections and running out of film, most cameras, now, record the image onto a memory card or device that is capable of holding hundreds, if not thousands of image files.  It is also interesting to note that it is these flaws, and others that affected film photographs that are now being sought to be replicated in such applications as Instagram.

 

 

 

 

Kodak Culture

 

To understand how photography and snapshooting came to be part of domestic life we need to look at and understand Kodak Culture.  Kodak culture refers to the society that came along with snapshot photography and the brand.  Kodak was responsible for creating cheap snapshot cameras that penetrated the market and made photography accessible to all, seemingly, most people then owned and shot with a Kodak.  This is addressed in “Photography, Theoretical Snapshots”, which states  “Only after Kodak began to advertise snapshot cameras as a means of documenting family life and emotional relations in the domestic sphere did snapshot photography gain such a poignant and important role in the chronicling of sentimental family histories.” (JJ LONG, ANDREA NOBLE & EDWARD WELCH. 2009. Photography, Theoretical Snapshots. New York. Routledge).  In other words, Kodak and their advertising campaigns created a desire and need for snapshot cameras and then provided a fairly affordable means of people being able to own their own snapshot camera with which to make images of their own.  This can be summed up nicely using the following extract “Nancy Martha West has shown, for example, that snapshooting was first associated with outdoor activities like biking, skiing, and picnicking (West 2000).  Only after Kodak began to advertise snapshot cameras as a means of documenting family life and emotional relations in the domestic sphere did snapshot photography gain such a poignant and important role in the chronicling of sentimental family histories.”  (JJ LONG, ANDREA NOBLE & EDWARD WELCH. 2009. Photography, Theoretical Snapshots. New York. Routledge).  This statement is further backed up by “A camera did not have a place in the everyday life of people prior to the Kodak camera.”(RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer).

This “Kodak Culture” still prevails today , however it is not just using the Kodak brand to create images, this is outlined in the paper “Snapshot Media: “Kodak Culture” in the 21st Century” written by Risto Sarvas, Asko Lehmuskallio, Vilma Lehtinen, Jaana Näsänen, Sami Vihavainen , “Our starting point is the so-called “Kodak culture”, which is concept describing film-based snapshot photography. Currently snapshot photography is digital and networked, and ever more mixed with other forms of media production. This is why we extend the traditional “Kodak culture” to include all forms of media and related services used for capturing, storing, distributing, and showing user generated content. This array of user-generated media we term snapshot media.” (. 2013. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://users.tkk.fi/u/rsarvas/Sarvas_SnapshotMedia.pdf.  [Accessed 10 April 2013]. )  In these terms the Kodak culture can span the 21st Century and include all types of creating snapshots, including images taken on all matter of devices and created by use of such applications as Instagram and those viewed on social media sites like Facebook.  Just because the means in which the image is captured has changed from that of film photography to digital as the predominant method of shooting an image, there is still a culture of taking images to document everyday life.  People still want and need to share their daily life with friends and relatives, document important parts of their life and share in happy events.  This can be seen with the rise of Instagram, launched in 2010 and now having over 100 Million monthly users and as many as 40 Million uploaded images per day (statistics courtesy of Press Center • Instagram. 2013. Press Center • Instagram. [ONLINE] Available at: http://instagram.com/press/ . [Accessed 04 April 2013]. )

 

 

Image Making And Editing

 

As I started to touch upon previously, the shift in technology has changed how we take images, process images and share images.  There was a step away from the daguerreotype to other forms of image taking and making, from medium format to 35mm, the introduction of Polaroid which was probably the first “instant image” maker similar to the digital camera in the way the image was taken and viewed quite quickly afterwards, (although not totally successful, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2008 is notable when discussing technological developments) then the invention of stills film cameras which led to digital cameras and now many devices containing cameras (think of mobile phones, computers, ipods, ipads etc) and that is just in the image making sector.  When we look further into technological developments we need to also look at the processes which have changed how images are developed, gone are the chemicals, plates, dark rooms and long waits for prints, and in come the PC software’s designed for editing instead, the likes of Photoshop, once a specialist, expensive software, now readily available to most people.  In that spectrum we can also consider the development of photographic applications that run on mobile phones such as Instagram, marketed on its own website as being “a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family. Snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram. Share to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr too – it’s as easy as pie. It’s photo sharing, reinvented.”  (Instagram. 2013. Instagram. [ONLINE] Available at: http://instagram.com/ . [Accessed 04 April 2013].)  Instagram is a photo editing application that you can access on “Apple” devices such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod and then upload to your social media sites to share with friends.  With this shift in technology and the speed and “instantness” with which we can share images, it is no wonder that digital technology has taken over as the preferred means of “snapshot” photography.  There is an argument running that mobile phone cameras cannot be professed as cameras as they are an addition to an already existing device.  “The camera phone, on the other hand, is a multi-purpose device, and capturing images is only one of its several functions. Second, because the camera phone is a general-purpose device, it cannot be optimised as a camera.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer).  However, because the device has a camera and is being used more and more in today’s everyday life as a snapshot maker, this argument can be seen as pretty much invalid.  The argument should be about the snapshot, and if the device can create an image that is able to be shared quickly and easily then, as far as it is concerned, the camera-phone is just as much of a valid means of creating the image as a more traditional camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Images

 

I believe that this instant-ness in sharing images has changed the way photographs are created; from the subject through to the way we view them.  In the book “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” it is stated that “What remains absent in such images, however, are the things we perceive as culturally taboo or mundane” (Charlotte Cotton. 2009. The Photograph as Contemporary Art. 2nd Edition. UK. Thames and Hudson) Due to the ease of sharing and the popularity of social media, the need for people to belong to groups and sub groups, to be able to subscribe to certain cultures and appear ‘cool’ to their peers there has been a rise in photographing the mundane such as coffee from Starbucks, where there is a perceived ideal of the brand that people want to be associated with to making images of food, not only at home but in restaurants too.  The Guardian recently ran an article about photographing food where “in Alicante in Spain, the restaurant group Grupo Gourmet, which owns the much-praised Taberna del Gourmet and Monastrell restaurants, has started running a “Fotografia para foodies” course on the basis that, if people are going to take pictures, they might as well do it properly. Chef-patron María José San Román says that the worst thing about bloggers taking pictures in her restaurants is that, if they don’t do a good job, or if they do it after eating half the food, the result looks terrible.” (TREVOR BAKER. 2013. Is it ok to photograph your food? The Guardian. [Online newspaper] http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/mar/11/food-photography-is-it-ok (11 March 2013)) In a world where sharing images is such a common-place activity it is interesting to see how businesses are accepting this need and are willing to help out and run these sorts of lasses, not only then do they get the best possible image of their brand/food out into the open but the customer benefits too in learning a skill which can be called upon again and again.  There is an awareness of audience and, as is implied above, there is nothing worse than a bad image being made and then circulated, as the businesses image takes a knock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Editing, Technology and the Home Today

 

While looking at modern day image making and creating we must look at the home, and photograph editing in general which was mentioned above when talking about Instagram, as many images created on devises now are digital the means of editing and producing them has changed from that of film photography .  Instead of taking photos with a film camera and then dropping the film off at a photo lab for developing, printing and finishing we have now stepped away from this and because of the format images are made on, we can now edit at home.  With this in mind it is worth remembering that digital photography and the home is a topic that is both broad and covers many different functions From in-device photo editing software, to software that was once only available to professionals (for example Photoshop) due to cost and the rise of software available for free on the internet it seems that there is a way for everyone to control their own editing and appearance of taken images.  Part of the appeal of Instagram is the ability to apply simple filters to the taken image and therefore edit the appearance before sharing.  With the costs of photo-editing being so accessible, most people can now produce an image that is to their standards and show things that they want shown in a way that can strengthen the way in which they are perceived one the image is shared .  This can then link back to the discussion around the family album that was had earlier.

Technological developments that have taken place have seen a shift in how we create images, from the daguerreotype, a limited-to-one edition image made onto a metal plate progressing to film of several kinds, to the first kind of ‘instant’ image of the Polaroid, then shifting towards digital with Stills Film Cameras and into what we now have with digital cameras readily available.  It was written that “the Polaroid instant camera was a predecessor of the digital camera.  Like the instant camera, the digital camera does not require an external development service in order for the photographer to see the captured image.  However, digital photography eliminates also the need for a disposable capture medium –the film.  Digital photographs are often stored on a separate medium, the memory card but the same memory card can be used over and over again.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer)  Moving image capture away from the “disposable camera medium” has helped with the depletion of the traditional family album, where once, images were taken and made into objects they are now taken and edited as a digital mass of code and then published to social media to share with friends and family, emailed to chosen recipients, or kept as files on the home computer, or now virtually (Cloud storage) away from the computer but still as accessible.

There has always been an element of “truth” or “dis-truth” in photography, the saying “the camera never lies” is often disproved and in so many ways the images we include in our family albums and the ones we share to friends through social media should be seen as being a carefully “edited” version of our lives and ourselves rather than being a dis-truth “Home photographers (I,e snapshooters) hardly ever take photographs of friends or family members arguing, painful experiences or unhappy people, and if relations or situations change after a photograph has been taken, the unwanted photographs are removed from frames or albums.” (RISTO SARVAS/DAVID M. FROLICH. 2011. From Snapshot to Social Media- The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography. London. Springer)The same goes for image taking today, with digital cameras being able to take so many more images and images being able to be reviewed so easily, deleted and re shot, we are never given the full picture surrounding that one shared image.  This whole idea is illustrated perfectly by Catherine Zuromskis in “Photography, Theoretical Snapshots” where she is talking about “the image itself often offers a distintly rosier and inaccurate vision of the events portrayed.  A week-long family car trip marred by arguments and tears can still produce the perfet portrait of the entire family, harmonious and smiling, in front of the Grand Canyon.” (JJ LONG, ANDREA NOBLE & EDWARD WELCH. 2009. Photography, Theoretical Snapshots. New York. Routledge).  In this way, we may see the perfect image but not understand fully the background to it.  This too then becomes an important factor in how we are viewed, and with this editing process, along with the ability to review and re-shoot images we are still able to control how we appear to others.  As a viewer we should be aware that the images we are presented with may not tell the full truth about that person or give the fullest background to that person.  Even with such seemingly quick shooting and sharing of images there is normally a thought process behind them.

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion I feel that the term “snapshot” has changed over time, both through technological advances in how images are made and through how the images are shared.  I do think, though, that the Family Album, although not in the traditional sense of the word, still exists today as the images we choose to share and display through social media to our friends and family.  However, the topic of snapshots and social media is vast, only a small element of which has been covered in this review, there is so much more that can be considered such as the subjects in the images and the relationships of the family, artists who re-create the feel of snapshot photography (the likes of Corrine Day spring to mind, her snapshots being created for fashion purposes), the rise of certain types of photographs in social media (for example the “selfie”),  the rhetoric of the family photographs, the similarities between captured occasions that we all experience, the emotions attached to images, photos that act as remembrance, photographs as memories and whether we remember something because there is an image made of the event and the conversations surrounding snapshot images and whether they truly are snapshots still.

Damien Hirst – Tate Modern

I went away at the weekend to go and see my favourite artists work on exhibition at the Tate Modern in London!  For uni, part of our summer work was to visit an exhibition and write a review of it! So, here is the review I wrote (and have just finished!!!)…

 

Damien Hirst

Tate Modern

4th April – 9th Sept 2012

The first thing that hits you when you enter the exhibition of Damien Hirst’s work at the Tate Modern is the smell.  Something lingers in the air, something that is vaguely familiar, the smell of household paint, then a musty odour of cigarettes, a chemical smell that I can’t place and something else.  Musty, old, decaying…Death, it’s that smell that follows you around, through the 14 rooms that house works of Damien’s, from his earliest spot painting to the room that contains cabinets of manufactured diamonds.  It seems that themes of death, religion and science are everywhere; you become aware of your own mortality, especially in room 3 when you are faced with that shark in formaldehyde, otherwise known as “The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”.  Pictures viewed in books and images of this installation do not do it justice, the glass acts to create an illusion of movement, causing the tiger shark inside to move about, curve and follow you around, your mind screams out that it is still alive through the movements it has tracked but common sense kicks in and you can see that it is dead.

There is noise too, not just in the visitors passing through the exhibits but the motors that turn the Spin Paintings in room 8, which also houses 2 pieces of work that rely on air, “Loving In a World Of Desire” – a beach ball suspended mid-air above a brightly painted box that houses an air blower, and the hum of the hairdryer in “What Goes Up Must Come Down”.  The only room that seems church quiet is room 14 which houses the work “The Incomplete Truth” – a dove suspended in a tank of formaldehyde and a pale spot painting “Remembrance”.

Logic wants to work overtime when viewing the spot paintings that are exhibited in room 1 and 2.  In room 1 the earliest spot painting can be seen, it is not clinically done as the later spot paintings are, clean rows and columns, the first is a messy, dribbly, affair with spots of paint marked as splodges that run down the canvas and appear still wet, having that glossy, wet look of household gloss paint.  But from this you can see the ideas already forming for later works which can be viewed in room 2.  These later works cause my eyes to dart about the canvas, trying to seek out patterns and a logic, which is a fairly impossible task as no two colours are exactly the same and no two colours appear side by side, or above and below, twice in any of the spot paintings.  Given that some of these paintings are huge, and the dots tiny, that is no mean feat.  It is clear to see how Damien developed his ideas and his love of colour in these works.

The first whiff of death that confronts us comes from “A Thousand Years”, housed in room 2.  It consists of 2 tanks side by side and joined, one houses a white box with holes in it that contains maggots, they hatch and fly away, making their way to the attached tank which holds a skinned head of a cow, hanging from the ceiling is a fly zapper with a tray below it.  The flies are drawn here, crawling over the head, feeding, reproducing and dying, the unlucky ones getting zapped to death before their bodies are caught on the tray below.  This work questions our life cycle and mortality; it brings everything into simplicity, and creates a cycle of its own.

Flies feature in Damien’s work further along the exhibition, in room12, where “Black Sun” hangs on the wall, the same smell of death and decay hovering around it.  This work is made of dead flies and resin, which until closer inspection it is hard to tell, at first I thought it may have been tarmac as it had the same texture but the smell gave it away.  It is hard to look at this work in a joyous way, it is a grim illustration of death, there is nothing happy about it, not like with other works of Damien’s which explore death.  It leaves you wondering about what happens once you have left this earth.

In contrast are the murals made to look like stained glass windows taken from churches.  These bright, pretty pieces are in fact, made up from butterfly wings that have been pressed into wet paint.  There is a different feeling to these works, even though they contain dead parts of insects, like “Black Sun” they have a joyous feel to them, one that seems to give hope after death.

Other images of death can be seen in “Mother and Child Divided” (room 9) where a cow and her calf have been cut from head to tail, dividing them into left and right parts which have been placed in four separate tanks.  The title of this work plays on the relationship between mother and baby and also the brutal reality that they have been divided, left from right, right from left.  It is possible to walk through the cow and calf and view all their insides and outsides.  This way of exhibiting felt much like the way things are displayed in biology, so that you can learn about the parts of the animal and get a good look at everything.

Further work of Damien’s which touch upon science are “Hymn”, a giant sculpture of an anatomical structure of the human body, the first work to be viewed by visitors at Tate Modern.  This work is placed outside the main entrance and is viewable from quite a distance.  This links in to Damien’s fascination with pharmaceuticals and surgical implements which can be seen throughout the exhibition, namely in room 10 where installations of cabinets full of surgical implements are on show and also in rooms 2(medicine cabinet – “Sinner”, pill cabinet “Lullaby”), and room 10 (Trinity – Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology), not to mention the room set up as an actual pharmacy (room 7).  On viewing these works I couldn’t help but find contradiction to the view that Damien’s work is all about death, surely medicines, teaching aids and surgical appliances are about curing, prolonging and helping survival?

The circle of life has already been addressed in Damien’s work “A Thousand Years” displayed in room2.  This is re-addressed in rooms 5 and 6 where the idea remains the same but is illustrated with butterflies.  “In And Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies)” and “In And Out Of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ash Trays)” is a two part work, room 5 houses canvases painted with bright colours and decorated with dead butterflies wings, and room 6.  In room 6 canvases hang on the walls from which huge butterflies hatch, their amniotic fluids that seep out when they hatch, drip down the canvas leaving coloured stains.  The butterflies move round the room gracefully swooping through the air, feeding on fruit that is left out, resting on the plants, before dying.  This work, although on the same thought lines as “A Thousand Years” seems more beautiful and poignant an illustration of the life cycle, the flies in “A Thousand Years” seeming more violent a description of life and death.

Death and religion are visited one final time in the quietest room of the exhibition, room 14.  This is where “Remembrance” and “The Incomplete Truth” are housed.  As you walk through from room 13 into the doorway of room 14 you see a dove, wings outstretched, hovering in a tank of formaldehyde.  The dove is symbolic in religion as hope, peace and the Holy Spirit, behind it is the palest spot painting edged in gold.  It is a beautiful sight, serene and peaceful; it offers a hope that there is more to life than just living and dying and is a brilliant way to finish the exhibition.

Essay – Damien Hirst I Love You

I thought I would share with you my essay that I wrote at the end of last school year for my course.  We had to write about two works of art by one artist and compare and contrast it.

Damien Hirst – A Comparison of Work

Suzanne Sadler

I have chosen Damien Hirst as the subject of this essay as I have been in awe of him and his work since I can remember.  Damien was born in Bristol in 1965 and went on to become a student at Goldsmiths on their Fine Art course.  From there he became part of the YBA’s or Young British Artists (a phrase coined in 1996 in an article in Art Monthly).  The YBA’s are a group of students, mainly ones who graduated from Goldsmiths Fine Art course in the late 1980’s.  They include artists such as Tracey Emin, Gillian Wearing and Ian Davenpoint.  Whilst still a student at Goldsmiths, Damien helped to organise an exhibition called Freeze (July 1988),  which ‘brought together a group of young artists who would come to define cutting-edge contemporary art in the 1990s.’ (http://www.blackratprojects.com/artists/biography/damien-hirst).  Damien’s own contribution, a stack of cardboard boxes painted with household paints, featured alongside other students work such as Mat Collishaw, Ian Davenport, Gary Hume, Richard Patterson and Fiona Rae.  Charles Saatchi viewed the exhibition and became one of the major contemporary collectors of Damien’s work, helping Damien with sponsorship for another exhibition – Modern Medicine in 1990.  In 1991 Damien put on his first solo exhibition “In and Out of Love” and has had his work exhibited in the Tate Modern and Gagosian to name but a few.  The YBA’s are known for exhibiting their work in factories and empty warehouses, the artwork being cutting-edge, using “shock tactics” to convey the ideas surrounding their work which makes them memorable and the varied materials used in their works, often materials that can be classed as “throw away” and their ‘couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of my work’ attitude.   It is this attitude and shock factor that has drawn me to Damien Hirst, much of his works being based on death, his ideas about death and themes surrounding death, e.g., The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone living, which I intend to examine further in this essay.  His work has won him the prestigious award the ‘Turner Prize’ (1995) where his work Mother and Child, Divided was put forward as one of the entries.  In both works mentioned (Mother and Child, Divided and also The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) Damien uses formaldehyde (a substance used in the embalming process) but he also works with other materials such as household paint (in his Spot paintings and spin paintings), butterfly wings (as seen in his  Kaleidoscope VII work), medicine in tablet form (Red Hot Chilli Peppers album cover for I’m With You, 28 Tablets) to surgical equipment (seen in his work End Game).  It is this diverse and also perverse use of materials that keeps him fresh in my mind and his work never ceases to amaze me.  In 2010 Damien was named 12th in Gloucestershire’s top 100 most influential people (http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Gloucestershire-s-100-influential-people-revealed/story-11886053-detail/story.html, 11th Dec 2010).  Damien was named in the Sunday Times Rich List, making him the richest, British, living artist with a wealth valued at £215 million, not surprising as according to the artist his work ‘For The love Of God’ (a platinum cast, diamond encrusted human skull with real human teeth) sold for a reported £50 million.  It is this work ‘For the Love of God’ and the work ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ that I am going to explore further and compare and contrast.

The first work, I referred to earlier, is “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”.  The work was created in 1991 and consisted of a 14ft Tiger Shark suspended in a tank (vitrine), made of glass and steel, full of formaldehyde.  It was funded by Charles Saatchi, who offered to fund any work that Damien wanted to create, obtaining the shark alone cost £6,000 and the cost of the work in total came to £50,000.  It was exhibited in the Saatchi Gallery based at St John’s Wood, London, in 1992 alongside other artist’s works in the Young British Artists show.  The work Damien created has been “considered the iconic work of British art in the 1990s (1), and has become a symbol of Britart worldwide (2).” (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Physical-Impossibility-of-Death-in-the-Mind-of-Someone-Living/111307055558182?sk=info, 1) Brooks, Richard. “Hirst’s shark is sold to America”, The Sunday Times, 16 January 2005, 2) Davies, Serena. “Why painting is back in the frame”, The Daily Telegraph, 8 January 2005. )  The shark was replaced in 2006 due to the deterioration of the original, assumed to be because of bleach added to the formaldehyde, which sped up the decay process,  when the work was housed at the Saatchi Gallery.  The original shark had also been subject to being removed from the tank, its skin being removed and placed over a fiberglass body and replaced in order to try and slow down the decay.  “Hirst commented, “It didn’t look as frightening … You could tell it wasn’t real. It had no weight.”” (Vogel, Carol “Swimming with famous dead sharks, New York Times, 1 October 2006)  As the shark had lost the drama, fear and aggression that the “real” shark had contributed to the work, it was decided that the shark would be replaced with a new one before being sold to Steven Cohen at an undisclosed price, rumoured to be around £8 million dollars in 2004.  Damien spoke with Steven and it was agreed that the fiberglass and skin shark would be replaced with another “real” preserved shark.  Steven agreed to foot the replacement costs and a new shark was purchased.  Another cause for decay was assumed to be the preserving process, the last shark had not been injected with formaldehyde, and it was just placed within the mixture in the tank, which over time became cloudy through decay.  The new shark was, however, injected with solution and also was soaked in a preservative for 2 weeks before being placed into the original vitrine in 2006.  This replacement of the original shark bought up the question from the public, whether the work could still be classed as the same piece of work as a major part of it had been replaced?  Personally, I think that the shark being subject to a taxidermy process back in 1993 and then being totally replaced in 2006 was just an improvement to the work, the process of replacement being along the same lines as a painter adding one final brush-stroke to a masterpiece in order to be totally happy with his work.  I feel that there was nothing wrong with improving the work, after all, who wants to sell a piece of work they, themselves, are not 100% happy with?  I do think that it was unfair of this question to be raised but I do understand that regardless of the path taken, whether Damien left the work as it was or, as he did, replaced the shark, questions and also criticisms would be raised.

The other work I am interested in is one of Damien’s more recent works.  This piece was unveiled in 2007 at the White Cube in London, and is called “For the Love of God”. The work is a platinum cast of a human skull (cast from an 18th-century skull he bought in London. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/magazine/03Style-skull-t.html The Iceman Cometh By WILLIAM SHAW Published: June 3, 2007)),  and is covered in exactly 8601 FLAWLESS diamonds which includes a pink pear shaped diamond set into the forehead of the sculpture, it also sports real human teeth which have been re-set into the mouth area.  The work cost around £14 million, financed by Damien himself, and was made in response to a question raised by his mother ‘For the Love of God, what are you going to do next?’.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/magazine/03Style-skull-t.html The Iceman Cometh by WILLIAM SHAW Published: June 3, 2007).   ‘For the Love of God’ went on sale with an asking price of £50 million and was apparently sold in August 2007, the buyer remained anonymous.

In the February 6, 2012 issue of Time Magazine, Hirst elaborated, in his “10 Questions” interview: “In the end I covered my fabrication and a few other costs by selling a third of it to an investment group, who are anonymous.” The skull cost around £14 million to fabricate. Hirst did not specify the “other” costs, but it seems reasonable to assume they could be around £2 or £3 million. If one third of the skull was sold for £16 – £17 million, then the total value of the piece would be £48 – £51 million. This, presumably, is where the 2007 claim of a £50 million sale price came from.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_the_Love_of_God )

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding both of these works, and in fact most, if not all of Damien’s art works (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/sep/02/damien-hirst-plagiarism-claims ).  The inspiration for his work “For the Love of God”, according to Damien, came from a turquoise skull of Aztec origins that is held in the British Museum.  However, John Le Kay, a past friend of Damien, had made claims that his work plagiarised a work that he, himself, had created during their friendship.  The work was called Spiritus Callidus #2 and was made in 1993, 14 years before Damien made his skull.  Le Kay said “”When I heard he was doing it, I felt like I was being punched in the gut. When I saw the image online, I felt that a part of me was in the piece. I was a bit shocked.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_the_Love_of_God ,   Alberge, Dalya. “My old friend Damien stole my skull idea”, The Times, 27 June 2007).  The claim of plagiarism has not been taken further or investigated as “LeKay has become more interested in Buddhism than material wealth, so he does not plan to seek compensation.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/sep/02/damien-hirst-plagiarism-claims, Dalya Alberge, 2nd Dec 2010, The Guardian).

Damien also faced claims of plagiarism for the work “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” which “was inspired by a stuffed shark that hung on the wall of an electrical supply store.”( http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/35697/is-damien-hirst-a-serial-plagiarist/ , Sept 3 2010, Art Info), My problem with these claims is that no artwork is original these days and all artists cite others work, or objects, whether natural or man-made, as inspiration and a starting point for creating work of their own.  From what I have seen of the works created by Damien and the ‘original’ works made by the other artists, there are similarities but the works that Damien has made are improved and Damien has added his own twist to them, for example, the large pink diamond set on the forehead of “For the Love of God”.  Damien was said to be “inspired by memories of the comic ‘2000 AD’, which Hirst used to read as a child. He relates how the comic, “used to have a character in it called Tharg the Mighty who had a circle on his forehead. He was like a kind of powerful, God-like figure who controlled the universe,” Hirst explains. “It kind of just looked like it needed something. A third eye; a connection to Jesus and his dad.””(http://www.damienhirst.com/for-the-love-of-god ).  What I find interesting with Le Kay’s claims is that he doesn’t say where he got his inspiration from when he created his work Spiritus Callidus #2 in 1993.  Damien had said that his work was inspired by a turquoise skull that is held by the British Museum and can be dated back to Aztec times.  It is interesting to note that throughout history there have been many discoveries of jewelled skulls being found.  I find it absurd that Damien can have these claims thrown at him for the skull work when these things have been around for centuries.  As far as I can see, Damien has put his own twist on the skull and has produced a work that is both beautiful to look at, links the modern with ancient times and has a thought process put into it that is personal to Damien.

It is also a ridiculous notion that the piece “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” can be a copy of a stuffed fish on show in an electrical store.  I think that the problem with this work is that it isn’t about whether it was or was not copied but what is defined as art.  The process that Damien took the Tiger Sharks body through to preserve it and his willingness to replace the shark when it started to deteriorate through decay surely says something about the work?  Would the stuffed fish on show in that electrical store have so much attention paid to it and be replaced when decay set in?  I think not.  There is also the issue of meaning behind the work, the electrical store fish was just that, a stuffed fish.  Damien has attached meaning to his work, it gets the viewer to confront fears and face their own mortality.

The fact that these works have similarities and parallel’s to other artists work or produced items should not really say anything about plagiarism.  Damien’s work has similarities to the other work but can we honestly say that any idea, work, music or any created thing is original?  In music certain riffs have been used over and over and it has been said that there is only a certain combination of notes that can be produced and put together before you run out of original combinations, sometimes the only thing making one riff different to another is the pitch or speed in which they are combined, can this not be applied to art?  With pitch and speed being the artists own interpretation and meanings placed onto the items produced?  I have looked at other works of Damien’s and can understand where the idea of plagiarism arises and in some cases Damien has paid undisclosed amounts to persons in settlement of these claims, (It emerged in 2000 that Hirst agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to head off legal action for breach of copyright by the designer and makers of a £14.99 toy which bore a resemblance to his celebrated 20ft bronze sculpture, Hymn.

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/sep/02/damien-hirst-plagiarism-claims)), which to me suggests that he may have been guilty of the claims against him, but, on the other hand it could have been because Damien didn’t want to go up against a large company in court.

Whatever claims have been made about Damien’s work and the similarities between his work and other artist’s work, the fact that Damien created these works and became famous because of them should not matter.  All artists use others work and ideas as inspiration for pieces that they create, they also use news stories and nature, all manner of things when thinking about what to create.  The only mistake Damien has made is not giving reference to the other pieces of work as a source of inspiration.  As an artist myself, I understand how frustrating it can be when ideas that you have had are taken and used by someone else (and sometimes made even better) but in this industry where no idea or thought is completely “original” we must accept that this will happen and we are as guilty of the next person of plagiarism of work.  The only way around this is to give appropriate praise and reference to works we have been inspired by whether it is a sculpture, a painting, an idea, a book, whatever it is that has given us the stepping stones to create our work.  I for one do not despair of Damien’s apparent “copying” of work and will forever be one of his fans.  Damien Hirst, I love you.

Bibliography

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