We are still wrestling with what it means to have an ever-present camera. Modernistdream aka mediamongrel has written some fantastic posts about this on his blog. My proposition here is that having a camera constantly about our person coupled with the ability to share images we take is changing the part played by photography in our everyday lives, social activities and rituals. Not only are we reshaping the ways in which we make memories or memorialise significant events as Modernistdream points out, we are also using photography as a means of communication that moves beyond the postcard effect of ‘I was here’. The relationship between word and visual images is drawing closer and sometimes the visual image is displacing words entirely as a form of communication.
However, I am not proposing that photographs are replacing words. I think it is more matter that we often send photographs to clearly show where we are, what has struck us ridiculous, delicious, beautiful or disgusting in a quest to reduce ambiguity given the strictures of 140 characters. With Twitter it is really easy to post photographs and there are applications specifically designed to coexist with Twitter in its mobile incarnation such as instagram.With these applications you can follow people, rate their photos but if you want to communicate via the images you still need to link to twitter. So photography is developing an almost symbiotic relationship to words in this environment.
Another phenomenon I have observed and experienced is when a follower may pick up an image and write a post in response to it. The first time this happened to me I was delighted. I had posted a photo of a flower I wanted to share. Within a few moments I saw that someone had written a haiku about the flower. This reminded me of parlour games such as exquisite corpse where someone would start a story that would be continued by someone else and so on. Naturally I checked out her profile and followed her.
So are we using photography more readily now as a form of self-expression and communication? And do we make judgments about people based on the kinds of photos they post in similar ways to how we judge them by their verbal posts?