Is Photography Over?

11/8/2017, noon | Updated on 11/8/2017, noon
“This was the moment when social media began to bloom and we began to see shifts in how people communicated, ...

Is Photography Over?

By Christopher Shuttlesworth

Corey Keller, curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), recently reflected on the current state of the medium of photography during a session at Columbia College’s Ferguson Lecture Hall, located at 600 S. Michigan Ave.

Since the invention of photography, the medium has been defined by the concepts of fixing and fading, according to the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MOCP).

Keller reflected on the issues raised by two symposia she organized at SFMOMA,

controversially-titled “Is Photography Over?” in 2010 and more recently, “The Photographic Event” (2016).

During the Columbia College session, Keller explained that both symposia’s

raised questions about the current state of the medium at moments of intense and rapid change, not only in how pictures are made, but how they are shared, kept and discarded.

“This was the moment when social media began to bloom and we began to see shifts in how people communicated, especially using photography,” she said. “In 2008, Facebook had 100 million users and in 2009 it had 200 million users. But in 2010, it rose to 400 million users and now it has 2 billion monthly users.”

Keller said nearly all of the symposium participants agreed that something was over, but didn’t know what “over” meant? But she noted that the history of photography has made moments of ending and beginning a routine occurrence in the last 180 years of photography’s history.

She continued to explain that the routine occurrence of photography began during the birth of the snapshot in 1888, which gave people a dynamic, rhetorical grammar

of the snapshot, a medium suited to its vitality and its contemporary moment that continues to inspire photographers today.

Keller said it was through photography that life was transformed into a photo op and photographs into memories.

She gave an example of how Kodak’s 19th century advertising slogans like, ‘You have nothing to show for holidays without a Kodak. You make friends and lose them;

you have good times and forget them; all of your holiday happiness passes out of your life unless you have a Kodak,” still resonates today.

“The same Kodak sentiment finds its expression in the hashtag “Pics or it didn’t happen,” or “Do it for the Gram,” Keller said. “This kind of compulsive documentation and the connection between the act and imaging is proof that the existence of photography did not begin through social media, but has been egged on by the photographic industry for 100 years.”

Keller said Author Susan Sontag’s book entitled, “On Photography” released more than 40 years ago, stated, ‘Needing to have reality confirmed and enhanced by photographs is an ecstatic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted to. Industrial societies turned their citizens into image junkies, which is the most

irresistible form of mental pollution.’

During the Columbia College session, Keller said the medium of photography, not the message, has changed.

For more information, please visit http://www.mocp.org/events/event?id=994701.