No one can say that the snapshot is dead. If judged by sheer quantity, our culture is no doubt taking more photographs than ever before. Robert Jackson collects vintage snapshots, and points out that even though the practice is alive and well, it is not what it once was.
There have been entire shows devoted to Jackson’s collection of over 11,000 snapshots. In 2007, the National Gallery of Art staged an exhibition of his photos — not a single one of which was actually shot by Jackson himself! But his years of archiving and curating these discarded prints gives us a very unique insight into our culture at large.
In this NPR interview, Jackson speaks with Claire O’Neill about how snapshots mean something very different today than what they used to. In the past, as Jackson describes, snapshots were about a collective experience, a memento to be stored away. With the advent of social media, today’s snapshots are about the person behind the camera. They are meant to show off fleeting experiences as they are lived.
Agree or disagree, this is an interesting way to look at the shift in photography over the years. Who knows how the collectors and historians of the future will look at our own snapshots. The level of detail in the record of daily life that we contribute to everyday with our camera-phones is truly staggering. Will our vast amounts of photos survive? Will they be looked at by only a select few, or will they fall into a giant database, readily accessible to future generations of curious folks? Think about it the next time you upload a picture to Instagram.