The Incongruence of SnapChat & Photography

Is Snapchat a platform for photographers, or for storytellers or just for random people who want to use some images to support their storytelling? This is an essential question I’ve been struggling with for over a year now.

It took me a while to even understand SnapChat. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to use the app, but I always felt I was missing something.

I mean if all it did was take a photograph and share it with people either through a personal message or as a public forum, then why was this even necessary. WhatsApp had been around for a while already, and for those who liked photos,  there was Instagram and Facebook.

And then I was told that the photos would disappear in 24-hours or after someone saw it. And you could use these filters to make yourself look like a puppy, or an alien.

Still didn’t get it. Besides, I got hung up on the point that the photographs would disappear.

As a photographer whose entire belief system is based on the permanence of photographs as a form of memory, storytelling and a symbol, it seemed abhorrent that photographs would simply disappear. What was the point of even chronicling the event in this form? If it was a transient moment and not meant to be chronicled or preserved, then its story telling did not require a photograph at all.

I browsed through various snapchats available in the public forum. I joined the app and found snaps of a lot of my friends.

Most of the images were mundane. Day-to-day tales, which still when put together tell a very strong story of a person. Instead, these people chose to erase it from their life. Like yesterday had no connection to who they were today.

The app principally goes against my beliefs, but it resonates with the younger generation who do not see photographs as an essential chronicling of time, or of moments. They take the concept of “a photograph equals a thousand words” but ignore the other aspects we see in a photograph. It is not a memory, it is the mere transfer of a visual moment to someone who is not present at the moment.

One could say that essentially that’s a what a photograph is supposed to do. But in the case of Snapchat, it becomes a mere tool to illustrate your point than the point itself.

I perhaps will agree with the model where photographs of deleted. Then again, these are not images with thought behind it. These are impulses.

About 80% of the photographs shared on social media today are shot with an impulse rather than a structure thought. They are not composed. They are clicked. They are mere transient illustrations of a conversation rather than a poignant moment.

Perhaps it would be wrong for me to construe this as a change in the photography format. Easily accessible photography tools have made us change the way we think about composing an image.

For a photographer, there will perhaps always be a thought process. For others, it is about capturing beauty. Moments. And perhaps do not have to be permanent.


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