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The Evolution of Photography: From Long Exposures to Instant Sharing

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

When taking photographs in the early 1900s, people portrayed weren't smiling. One of the main reasons was due to technical problems, such as long exposure times to capture images and it became impossible to smile for that long.

Old portrait
Old portrait

Then, in 1975, a Kodak researcher, Steven Sasson, discovered a revolutionary invention: the first digital camera, which had the ambition to go beyond film, giving life to a new camera capable of digitising the images just taken.

Photography is changing.

The first Digital Camera, Steven Sasson
The first Digital Camera, Steven Sasson

But what is mobile photography?

Mobile photography is photography created and realised thanks to a mobile phone, smartphone or Iphone that with the advent of digital technology has replaced the classic photographic devices (cameras), changing the market's rules and scenarios.

Mobile Photography
Mobile Photography

A photograph taken with a mobile phone has different meanings.

It is first of all used to share, tell, testify, express oneself, feed a flow of images to put individuals in communication in the world, creating collective monologues and social relationships.

According to some estimates, in 2014, around 880 billion photographs were taken with mobile phones, of which 350 million published on Facebook and 60 million on Instagram.

Today, every two minutes, more photos are taken than humanity produced during the 1800s. The web speaks in images and the digital revolution becomes shareable, the dissemination of images becomes repetitive, automatic addressed to friends and strangers, radically changing also the way of doing photography throughout the 1800s.

We no longer need to own a camera to understand how it works.

Analog camera, Nikon FM2
Analog camera, Nikon FM2

We don't need to know how exposure works as the cell phone camera does everything automatically.

We press the button and everything is done! Nothing simpler.

Today the reason we take pictures has changed.

We do not take photographs with the intent to create meaningful and quality photography.

Today, taking pictures means communicating.

Communication is fast. Taking a photograph is an immediate act.

Photographs are taken everywhere.

Let's look at the writing.

Writing has become complicated. People don't read anymore.

We live in a fast-paced environment with thousands of images that overwhelm us every day.

The mobile phone has become one with our body, an extension of the arm, to which we can delegate the brain, memory and gaze, creating an incessant compulsive and instinctive promotion of our daily experience and our individual dimension, in the collective sphere, defining ourselves through the images we produce.

We focus on the present, we forget the past, we share fleeting moments of our lives, which then mentally disappear and the photograph taken no longer records the event, but becomes part of it.

We exist because we produce images.

The camera becomes an integral part of us, an object of desire that realizes our desires by focusing attention on the sharing and transmission of visual data, creates a fusion with other people, a fusion between the public and private spheres and an immediate gratification of the need to express our point of view.

We are primarily concerned with ourselves.

We pose and post self-portraits - of what we eat, what we wear, what we see, our daily life seems so socially perfect! But is it really so?

I don't know but it sure is the fastest way to feel good about ourselves, maybe.

We are constantly looking for 'likes'.

1 like makes us happier.

Why are 'likes' becoming so important in our life and not good photographs?

Likes on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram increase our credibility.

If someone likes a Facebook page or Twitter post, that person's followers are more likely to see and be interested in what the person or brand behind that page has to say.

Photography today is all about social communication.

The old notion of photography as a means of "freezing" or documenting the 'present moment' simply no longer works.

Of course, photography has always had to do with communication.

But it makes a huge difference whether your photos are used in an exhibition inside a museum or in a photo book.

That's why there are some images that work in this environment and some don't.

Let's take a look at the most popular Instagram users and the photos they produce.

None of them were photographers before creating their own profiles, yet they take photos that millions of people like every day.

Photography is a language.

It is something that everyone has access to, and it is constantly evolving and has different meanings, slangs and passwords depending on the people, places and contexts in which it is used.

If we see it this way, the weird selfie might as well just be the photographic 'LOL' of our time - an expression of something the media we use and the culture we live in encourage.

Snapchat or Instagram have become excellent communication and creativity tools. Besides, the 'like' button is omnipresent.

But what if there was an 'I don't like' button? Wouldn't that encourage people to take completely different pictures?

by Loredana Denicola


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