Monday, December 17, 2012

Seeing Snapshots

In an earlier post, I made some remarks about how we see photographs, especially the way we see photographs we have made. Having made a photograph, we see it as the creator, we see the important things as important and the unimportant things as unimportant. Others may tend to see our work.. differently.

Snapshots take this notion is the nth degree. The maker of the snapshot sees, usually, the subject. This is a picture of my dessert at that one restaurant, and all I see is the dessert, and I remember how delicious it was and what that evening was like. You see a blurry and badly lit photograph of something that looks like it was probably gooey. You also see other patrons of the restaurant, you see the gravy blot on the tablecloth, you see the blurry thumb in the lower left of the frame.

Each of us, the snapshottist and the critical viewer, cannot see the image any other way. This applies to the billions of images uploaded to the internet. The creator sees one thing, their close friends may tend to see much the same thing because they have some related context in which the image lives, and they are generous viewers. A stranger, especially a critical one, sees nothing but a sea of bad lighting and blurry thumbs. Neither group can see these images in any other way.

It is by no means necessary to make anything of this. We can simply ignore Facebook photographs and move on with our lives (I certainly do). If, however, we wanted to make something of this we might choose to create for the critical and uninitiated viewer that same viewing experience that the snapshot's creator has.

We could simply take beautifully lit photographs of lovingly prepared desserts, but I think that would be missing the point. The idea would be to create that visceral experience, to simulate in some way that experience of being there, and of eating that dessert. The photographs need to lose the blurry thumbs, to be sure, and the other distracting elements, but I think a gritty and immediate feel is necessary. Is there some application of street photography here? Can one somehow bring a little grit, a little blur, a little feeling of vérité to the problem of photographing the dessert, or the party, or the new-to-you car?

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