How we look to ourself through familiar photos and consequences on the usage of the images.
Regardless of its professional and artistic usage, the photographic practice has largely been linked to its family function since the ‘20s & ‘30s of the 20th century.
Commemorating and immortalizing the important moments of family life, photographs, once ordered chronologically, call up and convey the memories of the events and persons that deserve to be remembered.
For a long time holiday pictures have been considered a socially privileged activity: taking pictures with monuments and palaces in the background serves as an affirmation of one’s economic possibilities. The photo becomes a status symbol. Partially, it is still true today though in some altered form.
The progressive spreading of ever simpler automated cameras along with lower costs of picture developing and printing have led to a continuous expanding of the field of the “photographable”.
The use of photos to create a story of life of your dear ones was already the core of advertisement at the beginning of the previous century; however, in the ‘60s it was Kodak to launch the spot “Turn around” performed by Harry Belafonte that became the first mild suggestion of looking at life as a story of a screenplay.
In 1955 Italo Calvino wrote: “ … If a photographer decided to enter on the path of recovery of all reality which passes in front of his eyes, the only way for him to remain consistent in his actions would be to go all the way: from the moment he opens his eyes in the morning till the moment he goes to bed, he would need to take at least one snap every minute, taking photos of everything so as to give us a totally reliable journal of his days. Until the moment he goes crazy.” To make this prophecy come true, we had to wait for digital technology to establish itself and, in particular, for the evolution of a camera integrated in the smart-phone. To have a camera at hand at any moment of your day and the zero cost of images production and spreading trigger an uncontrolled photo expansion.
Today we have more images of our memories than the actual memories of the life we’ve lived.
Photos are no longer pictures but a flow, like the flow which we use on our smartphones to scroll them. Roland Barthes in his book “Camera Lucida. Reflections on photography.” wrote that “What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.” Though the “selfie” culture or, anyway, an exponential increase of the “photographable” have produced the rebound. T he Photograph doesn’t certify any longer what occurred only once but registers what continuously occurs.Watching people take pictures alone, in couple, in groups at the Acropolis of Athens, a mythical place for tourism and travel for at least two centuries, offers a splendid chance to understand the dynamics of a holiday family photograph production. The photograph is not simple evidence, but it’s a film, mise-en-scène, scenography. An attitude that with the due differences is transversal to cultures, backgrounds, and ages.
The family photo has always been mise-en-scène, the representation of not actual reality, but of the desired reality. The “selfie” brings this attitude to its extreme consequences. The photograph becomes not a photograph, but a mirror, a false mirror which is used to create one’s own image. It goes even far beyond narcissism.Roberto Cotroneo in his book “Lo sguardo capovolto” (“The Reversed Gaze”) suggests:
“It is not gazing at oneself in the spring but it is a dreamy spring.”
The combination of digital production and simultaneous distribution via web creates this fundamental change of sense when compared to the analogue past, so that the image (probably we’d rather stop calling it the photograph) has its meaning only with regard to its immediate sharing. The image is hic et nunc, otherwise it doesn’t exist. So the fate of most images which creation I observed as an amused witness and an accomplice, is to fall into oblivion: they will be left abandoned on the phones, computers, hard disks or lost inside eternal and immense clouds scattered in a maze of the net. Consumption images, consumed images.
We continue taking pictures of ourselves and share them in real time so that others could see us living, so as to watch ourselves living and to fill, I think, a meaningless void. It is the void requiring toil like the labour of Sisyphus with no end.