And here it was, suddenly opened up like a folio of a book.
A pop-up book universe designed by Monty Python.
When is it remembering?
When is it memorializing?
When is it just stuff?
And I have been wondering lately, wondering a lot actually, about what has become of the image. The photographic image to be precise. The reflection is not nostalgic, melancholic or anything like that; it is critical, whimsical and with any luck at all optimistic. The ease, speed and technical apparatus for taking pictures has become absolutely and totally ubiquitous. Instagram is everywhere, curating assembled visions of the world by simply adding a # in front of a word. A couple of clicks here and there and one has a high quality, limited edition, audience focussed bound volume, in full colour and showing all the smiles and chuckles of the quotidian.
One cannot but think of Seymour Parrish’s overdub “Family photos do keep smiling faces. Births, weddings, holidays, children’s birthday parties… People take pictures of the happy moment in their lives. Someone looking through a photo album could conclude we had lead a joyous, leisurely existence. Free of tragedy. No one ever takes a picture of something they want to forget.” [One Hour Photo, 2002]
Now, we are taking photographs of all our moments, not always the smiley face happy times (though there is always a plethora of grins, real and staged, to wade through). What is interesting is asking ourselves whether this represents the final secularization of the image, of all images. Does this strip away meaning? Does it prove that looking for meaning was/is a red herring?
In many ways, the “art” photographer’s job was indeed to try and accumulate the images of those things that we very well may want to forget. Sometimes this could take the guise of making a statement on various constructions of social co-existence, recording a moment of ephemeral passage, creating a record of whatever. All this fancy language seems utterly useless to interpret what is happening now that these statements are made by vast curated assemblages represented by the #tag.
The image is finally free of the maker, is it?