Why do we take photographs & is social media changing the way we share these images?

My work explores my own personal family history and I use old family photo albums as a starting point to begin each piece. I generally create work for myself, to help identity with hidden or repressed qualities of my character to help better understand my reality. I want to reflect on my childhood and the transience of youth that seems to flitter past your eyes as you work your way through an old family album. The photographs are tangible memories and it’s often hard to even recognize yourself within the photograph. The memories we each have are fragmented, selective and faded – almost like trying to remember the parts of a dream.

One of my main concerns however is how digital imaging and new technology is changing the way we take and store personal photographs. Once these images were stored away or put on display in the house only to be shared with loved ones. Now these photographs are shared online, for sometimes complete strangers to view. The pressure of sharing these images with a whole network of ‘friends’ subconsciously changes the way we take photographs and the delete button becomes used more and more. We only choose to share the photographs that portray us in the best light and the aberrations and quirkiness we find in old albums are lost.

In my more recent experiments I have been interested in how facebook and this ‘mirror image’ of ourselves has brought us to a new level of repressing things virtually. The ‘mirror’ theory was coined by Lacan who believes that like a way of being looked at by society it is a way of constructing and identifying the self. Facebook allows us to tweek and show ourselves in the best possible light. While family albums are edited to provide the mother with her own satisfying evidence of her good mothering (choosing only to highlight photographs of the happy times and smiles). Facebook albums are there to share with the world evidence of our own happy experiences and allow us to literally ‘untag’ or remove photographs that stray from this perception. By doing this we are living our on screen lives in a distorted reality. If we’re increasingly viewing the world through a warped lens, might it be distorting us in turn?

So why do we feel the need to take photographs? Some critics argue that photographs provide us with an “order of proof “. They are there purely to remind us what has happened and to prove our own existence. Photographs have usually little do with remembering the past though, it’s about looking ahead to a more distant future where we will no longer exist. Photographs allow us to escape mortality and leave a trace of ourselves behind when we are gone.

Further reading: “Screens, Dreams and our Social Media Reality” – http://www.kaneconsulting.biz

4 thoughts on “Why do we take photographs & is social media changing the way we share these images?

  1. We just read your post and spoke about what our kids will inherit from us. All of us 30+ people still get boxes with pictures…
    Our kids will have Gigabytes of uncleaned and randomly sorted HDD space with tons of more or less meaningful picture-files to scan through.
    Shame I’ll be long gone by than and can not play little mouse to see how they will deal with it…

    • You’re so right! My family box of photographs are so important to me and I worry how the way we’re storing these files are going to impact the quality of memories we leave behind. It’s a scary thought! But thank you for your comment. x

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