The Need to Write (or a Reflection on the Past) Part 3

In September 2012 I started what was my second year of my Photographic Art degree, and my 3rd year in Uni (having previously completed a Foundation Degree in Art, Media and Design (which has been written about here) and my First Year as a Photographic Art Student (read about the first year here)).

I was really looking forward to this year as it was to be the first year that our grades counted towards our degree, though I’ve never really understood why our first year didn’t count towards our grade.  We had been set work to complete over the summer term, anything of our choice, so long as we had research and a completed piece of work to show for it.  I used the topic of insomnia for my body of work and chose long shutter speeds to capture the restlessness felt by the sufferer.  (That work is documented in these posts found here ) .  We all got set the task of visiting an exhibition in the holidays and writing about the visit as well as completing a full project.  I chose to go to the Tate Modern and see Damien Hirst’s exhibition and write about that.  We were to exhibit our summer projects and hand in the writing about the exhibition in the weeks after we started back for marking.  When it came to it though, we got to exhibit our work but not one of the lecturers seemed to care about the written work at all which was really disappointing on my part, not because I hadn’t enjoyed the exhibition but because I had tried really hard to produce some really good writing about the exhibition and it felt like the lecturers didn’t care and were not really interested.  This didn’t really set off the year in the most positive way for me.

One of the first projects we were set was the task of producing some kind of work in a “Make” project to ease us into the new study year.  We got to choose our own theme so long as we produced something that was made by us which was nice.  I chose to create work inspired by the colour spectrum, focusing on how the colour spectrum we were taught in school, made up of primary colours – red, blue and yellow, secondary colours – purple, green, orange, differed from the “light colour spectrum” or “Additive Light Spectrum” where white light is made up of different colours of light.  I produced a set of 3 canvases based on this theory, sets of overlapping and linking circles all painted with varying degrees of tone (this can be seen here).  I also made a hanging model of how the colours interact with each other – another balls on sticks piece!  We had to talk about our work in front of the class, which was quite nerve-wracking and I’m still not sure, to this day, whether anyone understood my work or even liked it.

The second project we did focused on the town I am from, we were to produce work about the town which could have the opportunity to be displayed in the town, which was undergoing renovation works, to hide the ongoing building work.  The whole of the class had to produce work about the town I’m from (Pontypool) and upon completion of our projects were to exhibit our work in the town for all to see.  I can’t say that working on a project that is based in your own town is easy, for me this was really hard as I have done so many projects about the town, through school and college respectively and for this project I wanted to come up with something original and different to other projects I had done on the town.  In the end I chose to create maps of the town, taking all information out of them and leaving bare roads, no distinguishable features in sight. This can be seen here.

It was through this project that I met and started working alongside artist Alexia Mellor with my friend Meg.  Alexia had been bought in to Pontypool to work on art projects for the town and was the Resident Artist.  We assisted her with art activities and were encouraged to create our own projects on the town, rather than write about these projects here you can view them individually here.  This was probably the best outcome of the work and was the most fun.  From this has stemmed a new project that I am currently part of, based in Pontypool which I will be writing about soon!

Other projects that I worked on in this time were based upon social media, the umbrella title we were given for this work was “Voyeurism, Surveillance and Control”.  My idea was based around how social media can encourage voyeurism and surveillance and control us in ways that we are not conscious of – Facebook, one of the biggest social media sites, apart from twitter (and now Instagram – which this month (December) became bigger than twitter with a reported 300 Million active users (as reported in The Guardian here ) allows users to add friends and interact with others as and when we choose, and depending on the security set by the user, can allow you to peruse other users pages and see what they are up to without even being their friend on the site.  In order to set up a page on Facebook (and by page, I mean a new person profile page, the kind that people have in order for you to “add them as a friend”), from new, the site asks for lots of information from you, some of it relevant to the site, and some not really necessary, it was this gathering of data and how the site may use it that interested me the most.  I decided to set up a new user page to see what was asked and see how much information I really needed to share.  When you start a Facebook page there is information needed, you start with your name, email, date of birth, then further boxes come up as you complete each step – hobbies, interests, schools, education, work and so many other information gathering boxes.  These boxes come up and it makes you feel that you have to give the information asked, its like you are mis-lead into giving the information out, you can skip much of the information but upon the set up of the page being complete there are prompts that come up on top of your news feed from time to time asking for further information about yourself.  I decided to take screenshots of these information boxes and reproduce them, getting them printed into a book, the idea being that most people are happy to fill in all this information which can then be shared with “friends” and can be viewable by a larger audience than you are aware of if you are not careful but would those people be happy in writing down all this information into a book which can then be picked up by anyone and read.  I then went on to produce the final piece of work for the year, which went into our end of year exhibition, which I called “Screen” – a backlit frame that contained all of the data boxes that Facebook bombard you with when signing up for a profile with them.  The work addressed the vast amount of data that we give away to these companies without really realising and just how much information we share to others without even noticing.  My interest in this field led me to write an essay on the subject (here) and I went on to cover the subject in my dissertation also.

In all I enjoyed my second year, the projects we were set were very broad-based and we were able to run with our own ideas and work production methods, I was happy that I got to produce some large-scale maps as I had been wanting to use maps in art for such a long time but never really knew what I wanted to do with them and I really enjoyed producing a book as well.  I got to learn more about what Photoshop was capable of in terms of using it for production of my work and it boosted my editing skills.  I bought the book “Photoshop CS 3 for Dummies” which helped me learn how to use different parts of Photoshop to produce my work and I still refer to it now if I need to learn something in that software.  There were some points that were not so good, the length of time we had on projects seemed, sometimes too long and I felt, at several points like I had run out of steam and inspiration for the work I was undertaking, at times I felt that there wasn’t enough support available from the tutors and that sometimes they didn’t quite understand or like the ideas that were being discussed with them and there seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm from other students when we put on our exhibition in Pontypool.

Several times I thought about quitting the course and went through so many mixed emotions during that year but I stayed and returned in September 2013 to complete my final year of the course – stay tuned, (or even subscribe!) to read the reflection of my Final Year coming soon!!!!

Is the #Selfie Epidemic Slowing?

I haven’t taken, or uploaded a #selfie in ages…a trawl through my Instagram feed (@siouxsietench) shows that the last one was uploaded 7 weeks ago.  The #selfie I am referring to is an image of me in my favorite pink VW hoodie, glasses on with my back to a view of the sea and sand dunes, attempting to capture the sunset on holiday (which was amazing and my #Selfie does not do justice to).  Prior to that was one taken a week previous where I was showing off my new glasses and looking particularly smug.

After working on my final degree project (formerly Insta-Rips then re-named “Reaching Out”) and writing my dissertation on Selfies and social media I thought this may be a trend that would continue for ever and ever.  Now though, I’m not so sure… you see, from realising that I have slowed with the #selfie taking I have become aware of the amount of #selfies appearing in my news feeds (on several social media sites) has depleted.  No longer, it seems are my friends and people I follow, taking these images of themselves and posting them up on social media for others to scrutinise daily.

Looking at Google’s Trends page, it seems that the trend for taking #selfies, has indeed dropped.  The trend is shown to have peaked around March – April 2014 and has steadily dropped off as the months have progressed.  The peak between March and April for this kind of photo could be explained by the presence of a campaign to raise awareness and funds for cancer (run by Cancer Research) which saw millions of people take part in a No – Makeup Selfie, the basics being simple to understand – don’t wear makeup, snap a #selfie of self with no make up on, donate money to charity and nominate a friend.  This trend saw countless celebrities backing the cause which in turn encouraged the general public to take part too.  This was a really clever strategy to raise money for the cause but could have manipulated the #Selfie data which means that the figures rose sharply and then fell away.

But, back to the main point of this writing, “I’m not seeing #Selfies PEOPLE!!!!!”  Where have they all gone?  Apart from the odd one uploaded as a friend wants a new “profile pic” and has decided to shoot one themselves (Facebook mainly) or someone is showing off their make-up or hair style (Instagram), I am seeing less and less #selfies taken just because…

I need to examine why I haven’t taken or uploaded any of my own #selfies for a while (7 weeks!!!! I still can’t believe this mostly because at one point in time this was pretty much a daily occurrence!) , I can come up with loads of excuses – I’m busy, I don’t think I look that good, I’ve got no new clothes/shoes/outfits to show off, I’ve been tired, I’ve not done much that is so exciting that I have to take a selfie to share…so many excuses!!!  But are any of them a real reason?  Nope.  The real reason is that I’m not seeing many #selfies from friends anymore, and therefore I am not being influenced by them to create my own, so not snapping myself or uploading as regularly anymore.

Peer pressure, whether we are aware of it or not, really does influence us.  We are visual creatures, and creatures that want to be accepted into the groups that surround us, we want to fit in and be seen to be “cool”.  When our friends stop doing something, something that we used to partake in, it affects us, whether consciously or subconsciously and we alter our behaviour accordingly.  This is the real reason behind my lack of #selfies.  Whether I like it or not, I have been influenced by what I am seeing or not seeing on my news feed.  I want to fit in, be cool and be accepted, no matter that I tell myself that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter…the reality is that it does.  And it is this reason that the No Make Up selfie cancer campaign worked so well too, we are not just influenced by our friends but by the media and celebrities too, it only takes one celebrity to get noticed for doing something and it to be reported for a trend to start…remember velour tracksuits…I blame Coleen Rooney for that one.  We see celebrities doing, saying or wearing something and we want to emulate them, its our chance of aligning ourselves to them, a case of “if they can do it then I can too”, we idolize celebrities for their wealth, their “famousness”, their coolness and in some ways want a share of that.  Remember the cool kid in school that you wanted to be like so much that you would study their every move, their clothes, how they spoke, what they ate etc, and you would try to copy them?…Its the same thing, we envy what others have and how they are and want to copy them…its natural, its human.  And this is where I find myself now, I started with the #selfie trend as everyone else was doing it and now, Ive slowed with the images as I’m not seeing them so much anymore…

So, in the future, unless the #selfie culture booms again, you can expect the odd #selfie on my feed but probably more images of what really matters to me (my vintage car, my nails, my artwork and other things that make me happy), ultimately moments I want to preserve and share.

But for now… Let me take a selfie…. (The Chainsmokers – Selfie)

Summer Project and Dissertation Thoughts

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…

rene not a pipe

 

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.

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.

Voyeurism ad Surveillance – How my project became the Fb Project

I shared with you my ideas about this project in this post and after a lot of thought and experimenting with different ideas I now have a concrete project that I am working on.

I spoke in the last post about Voyeurism, Surveillance, Big Brother and social networking, with ideas to investigate what people share on-line and how people disregard the privacy settings, meaning that whatever they share is not only viewable to their friends but also anyone else who happens to stumble upon their page.  I was quite set on this idea but as time has gone on I have now been thinking about the manner in which we share data and how social networking breeds sharing (and over-sharing) of information we might not necessarily have meant to share to everyone.

I have started to look at the methods we go through when sharing information onto social network sites, in specific, Facebook.  I chose Facebook as it is a common denominator among myself and my friends, there are very few people I know who don’t hold an account.  When looking at this I found that a quarter (approx) of Facebook users fall into the 24 – 34 age bracket (in the UK) and the figure for that group stands at 8178000 (taken from SocialBakers website) which in itself is astonishing.  When you think about it, these figures seem to make sense, this is the age group that first had Facebook (launched 9 years ago, wikipedia ) and it is the age group that have embraced new technology and can understand the potential in social networking, whether it is to keep in contact with friends or use as a tool to market yourself or even play games.

My thoughts and research led me to creating a new Facebook to see what information I needed to give and what information you are likely to share when asked.  I took screen shots of each “Information Field”.  I wasn’t totally aware of why I was doing this but at the time it seemed like a good idea.  I have since gone back to them and kept looking at them and wondering what I could do with them, questioning how we share things, why we share things and the means we have to share things.  It struck me that sharing information on-line was quick and easy, something that we have to do when making purchases, visiting websites and has become part of normal life, it seemed people just clicked and shared because it was so easy.  This train of thought led me back to the book idea, what if I challenge how we share information?  Take it back a step and make it a physical action that requires more than just a click of a button.

I am now looking at those screenshots and formulating an idea which turns Facebook into an actual physical book experience where the viewer of the book is asked to fill in the information required (with a pen or by printing out and sticking photos in etc).  Would they be willing to share the information if they had to think about what they were doing and go through physical motions to do so ?  Will it make people more aware of what they share and who can see it?

Hopefully this project will raise questions of personal security on-line and make people think about what is shared and who with and even the way we share information.  I have always been careful about what is shared and who with, I don’t want my info to be shared with 100 of my friend’s friends and then shared with their friends etc.  I also don’t want this project to be a shocking account of what can be viewed on-line, or become a campaign about internet sharing and safety but I do want to question the means of sharing and how and why we share.

Voyeurism and Surveillance

Our new project, Voyeurism and Surveillance, got given to us a short while ago.  I had been toying with the idea of a Big Brother themed idea, because to me Big Brother is the bridge between the both, it has a voyeuristic feel to it – a social experiment where total strangers enter a house and live together whilst every movement is captured on CCTV and broadcast for the general public to ‘enjoy’ as a tv show, whilst covering the surveillance aspect through the house-mates movements and conversations are picked up and monitored as an experiment.

This moved on to more modern ways of voyeurism and surveillance, the internet and social networking.  It is crazy to see what people upload to social networking sites and what you can find out about someone due to what the put on their ‘Profile Page’ –  a page that tells you about them, their date of birth, family members, where they work, the area they live, the music they like and even hobbies, interests, sexual orientation, whatever they want to share, you, as the viewer, can potentially see.

I originally started looking at people’s profiles that had lots of information viewable (not my actual friends, strangers profiles) and thought about using information that I could find out about that person to create a book about them and all this “found” info but am still unsure of this as I don’t really feel that there is much of a message for the viewer of my work to see.  I did think about internet security and how, even with things in place such as ‘Privacy Settings’ , people didn’t seem to are about what they were sharing and wanted to make people more aware of their internet security and to raise the question’s “Why share?” and “Is it necessary to share this much information?” .  I am still thinking along those lines, and still want to make a book but I’m thinking of pushing this whole concept and idea further in terms of audience participation.  Changing people’s thoughts about internet security and information sharing may not come from just seeing a book full of information I have collected from other people’s profiles, it may come from the processes we go through in sharing information over the internet, it’s so quick and easy to type in something and click a button that we rarely think about it any more, but what if we went back to pens and paper to share information and it became a more physical and thought about process?

A New Project

So, I have finished my Foundation in Art and am now currently doing a degree in Photographic Art.  I am going to be making this site a bit more personal, putting up more of my own work and thoughts as well as any influences I may have!  I will still be adding reviews of artists work every now and again and also explaining how they are relevant to my work/what of their work influences me or makes me want to learn that technique, or just what I like about their work in general.

Anyway, I am now onto my 3rd project which is about physiognomy.  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physiognomy for a definition).  I have gone off on a bit of a tangent with this work and am looking at types of photo identification and if they represent the person whose photograph it is.  I am also looking at facebook profile pictures which can be carefully constructed by the owner to promote how they want to be seen (or not) by society.  I want to explore the question “Do you think that Facebook tries to get you to create a brand for yourself/gets you to market yourself in a certain way for others to see?” and show this in a comapre and contrast of “official photo I.D” and Facebook I.D.  What do you think about Facebook as a form of representation?