Snapshot Porn and Curation v Creation


I have just been wandering round some of the ancient monuments of Istanbul. Some of the most wonderful Bysantine and Ottoman architecture I have ever seen. And Hagia Sophia is the most impressive of them all. A stunning Greek Orthodox Basilica, then a magnificent Ottoman Mosque and finally a museum with its antecedents going back to the 3rd century. The mosaics of Christ and the Virgin Mary cheek by jowl with huge calligraphic tributes to the Prophet Mohamed. And the most stunning architecture. It is breath-taking and hard not to just stand still in astonishment.

Yet the hoards of tourists simply walk, stop, click, walk, click, click, click, walk. Everything they see is framed inside the camera viewfinder. No looking. No interpretation no framing. And yet the human eye is much more sophisticated than any lens. It sees in 3D and can make sense where a camera sees 2D blandness. Ten seconds to look beats 10 shots with an iPhone. But if you observe behaviour you would never think that.

And what happens to those photos; the out of focus, the too dark, the over flash lit? I bet they sit in a digital store along side the good or even the excellent shots. No discrimination and no learning. No processing from eye to brain, just eye to SD card.

No one frames. Quick point, quick shoot. But if you pause and look, the framing is part of how our brains make sense of everything. Even if you look first then consider your shot and pause to frame it, there is a much richer cognitive process going on and you will remember that shot as you remember the process that went into its capture.

My recipe would be look first, think, frame, shoot and when you get home delete 70% of what you shot. That leaves a genuine curated experience that can be shared. Try it and see if I am correct. A pile of miscellaneous photos of the world that you can’t even remember where they come from, all misaligned, and half out of focus is a travesty not a memory. Two years down the road you won’t even remember which city they came from, there alone, which building.

The skills of curation are critical in a world where everything spills onto your lap minute by minute. It is the search for meaning, and the search for context. It is really important.


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One Response to “Snapshot Porn and Curation v Creation” - Leave a Comment

  1. Completely agree with you. I wrote a PhD thesis about family photographs, most of which was based on photographs that were pre-digital, or at least pre-sharing-photos-on-social-media. It’s incredible how photographic practice has changed, even over the last 4 years.

    I recently had the pleasure of filming an incredible photographer, Jimmy Nelson, who travels the world shooting predominantly film (large format) photography. He takes literally hours framing subjects.

    In one of the interviews he spoke about digital and how people ‘machine gun’ with the camera. Without connecting with the subject matter, without taking their time, they’re left with a document, not a photograph. You’ll see his work at http://www.beforethey.com – inspiring stuff.

    The other thing I find interesting about going to ‘tourist hotspots’ is just by being there, you become one of the anonymous mass of ‘faces’ that occupy the backdrop of other people’s photographs, as you get caught in that machine gun fire.

    Anyway – great post Nigel!

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