Digital Age and the Phenomenon of Snapshot Photography

Subject: Art
Pages: 26
Words: 6611
Reading time:
25 min
Study level: Undergraduate


Culture is in a constant process of transformation from some periods with well-established cultural ideas to others, when many elements of the picture of the world change to their opposites. One of the reasons for the change of cultural eras is alterations in the system of perception and assessment of reality by an individual (Bate 2016). The issues that transform the very course of development of various social phenomena are the powerful catalysts. Photography is one of such important phenomena, the appearance of which entailed a whole series of profound modifications in culture (Wells 2015). The study of the digital age and its impact on society, which is caused by the appearance and development of fine art photography and snapshot photography, allows accurately examining the nature the cultural practices, which the rationale for exploring the identified theme.

The lead question is formulated as follows: How did the digital age and the phenomenon of snapshot photography transform cultural practices compared to fine-art photography? The significance of addressing the identified question is associated with the rapidly changing cultural traditions that are closely related to snapshots and, previously, more to fine art photography. The understanding of the transformation factors and impacts requires posing this question in the given way.

The paramount aim of this dissertation is to examine the recent literature, discuss personal experience and integrate them to answer the identified research question. The first objective is associated with distinguishing between the notions and roles of fine art photography and digital photography to design the foundation for further discussion. The second objective refers to linking the examples of photography with the underlying theories and the hypotheses that are examined on the related literature.

To accomplish these goals, the methods of the literature review, direct observation and descriptive analysis are applied. Among the theories to be used, there are Barthes’ studium and punctum, Zuromskis’ queer theory and the culture theory that focuses on its continuous transformation. The dissertation is structured in accordance with the rhetorical academic text, including the following chapters: introduction, chapter one (Exploring the Change in Cultural Practices Driven by Digital Age), chapter 2 (Snapshot and Problems Arising in a Digital Age (Accessibility, Safety and Truth) and conclusion. Such a structure ensures a well-organised presentation of the arguments and discussion of findings to make relevant conclusions.

In contemporary culture, photography serves as an essential element of everyday experience and social practices. The leading place of the visual constituent in the perception and orientation of the latter on representation make snapshot photography an important component of the development of traditions and clichés of worldview (Bate 2016; Berger 2011). In terms of such crucial features of today’s culture as the standardisation of human existence and experience and the desire for self-certification, snapshot can be considered a constituting factor of modern culture. The study of snapshot photography, therefore, is of great importance for understanding the processes of modern culture.

In this regard, in the study of everyday photography, the researcher is particularly interested in such areas as a cultural analysis of a factor in constituting the cultural and ontological meanings of modern culture. In particular, the modes of authenticity, memory and cognition are one of the most important issues for understanding snapshot photography.

Exploring the Change in Cultural Practices Driven by Digital Age

Specificity of Photography Concept: Past and Present Definitions

In a broad sense, photography is the acquisition and preservation of a static image on a photosensitive material, such as a film or photographic matrix, using a camera. Also, a snapshot is the final image obtained as a result of the photographic process and considered by a person directly, which refers to both the frame of the developed image in an electronic or printed form (Wells 2015). People have long sought to find a way to obtain images that would not require a long and tedious work of the artist. The traditional fine art photography was based on photographic materials in which photochemical processes occurred. In the process of obtaining and saving digital photography, electric charges move (usually as a result of the photoelectric effect and during further processing, but there are no chemical reactions or substances moving.

Photography is a special type of art that does not have centuries-old traditions in creativity. It should be clarified that research in the field of the history of photography lags far behind the development of artistic genres and approaches. The recognition of photography as an art form is not unconditional. Nevertheless, the admirers gather for photo exhibitions, study the works presented by the masters and conduct discussions. Unlike the same painting, photography does not have such a wide network of museums, as well as admirers and collectors. The main reason for such a condition is the technical features of light painting.

For a long time, the photo originals were short-lived, which reduced not only the century of the image but also its value. In 1931, Walter Benjamin presented the work on the history of photography, which commemorated the first attempt to discuss the consequences of inventing photography. In particular, fine art photography was viewed as the concept that initially emerged as an individual production that transformed into the collective powerful image.

The key characteristic of snapshot photography is the relative simplicity with which it is created. In the minds of many people, it is not difficult to create a photograph: one needs to click, and here it is a picture. The main goal is to click more often, and out of thousands of shots, at least one will be successful. In order to create even one of his paintings, Rembrandt had to work more than one day. On the contrary, it is enough for a photographer to visit the event to get an image.

In the infancy of photography in the 1830s, no one could imagine that there can be a photographic art since technology was used solely for documentation and discovery purposes (Wells 2015). To overcome the prevailing stereotypes and complete a masterpiece, many masters spent years of work. Some of them managed to create the works that deserve the attention of discerning art historians.

Fine Art / Snapshot Photography and Communication

Fine art photography is a complex phenomenon and a method of communication through message translation. The elemental and compositional choices made by an artist are specifically selected by him or her to present one or another idea, call, situation, et cetera. In this connection, fine art photography intends to motivate the audience to alter their attitudes or behaviours. The artists tell their stories by using a variety of experimentations and feedback from the spectators, artists improve their style and the very creative process. It seems to be critical to point out that the main characteristic of such photography is associated with putting something meaningful in the works to share with people.

At the same time, not only the background and object components are important, but also the technical quality should not be compromised. Abstraction is another essential feature of fine art photography, which allows for eliminating the superfluous elements and distilling the essence of a photo. As a result, the artists can connect with the viewers on a more fundamental ground, which leads to sending proper messages.

Speaking of fine art photography in the context of communication, one should pay attention to the fact that it can be perceived from two different stances. On the one hand, Manzella considered it as a false art as it captivates large audiences and attracts people across cultures and nations (Wells 2015). According to the mentioned authors, photography as art was devoted to males and remained the men-dominated medium of communication. Bate (2016) claims that it allowed for asserting the female agency and practising neutrality, which is the evident reference to the social function of photography. The emphasis on the political and artistic provocation was made by Bate (2016), who discussed the ability of women to expand their roles. Throughout the history, fine art photography served as the measure of translating slogans and expanding the creative eye.

The notion of fine art photography illustrates the problems of society by providing the place for discussing different viewpoints. Likewise other forms of communication, photography offers the interaction between people, be it face-to-face conversations or distant communication. Wells (2015) stresses that the interpretation of fine art photography is possible only with the considerations of its usage in practice.

For example, the examination of social and street landscape record some coinciding events and stories, serving as responsive styles. It is correctly stated that these styles represent miniatures about persons and their everyday lives that are integral parts of rituals of fine art photography. Thus, from the perspective of communication, photography allows sharing vital information about the environment and mankind in general.

The development of photography and technology led to the changes in the perception of photos as the individual presentation of a master. In particular, the conception of great works changed from the individual level to the collective images. The concept of aura is introduced to the literature by Benjamin, who views it as a powerful capacity and the existence of an object in the given time and space (Bate 2016).

While earlier works were not reproduced often, they presented more value and history compared to the images of masses. Benjamin reasonably notes that aura is destroyed by social drivers in the sense that mass perception tends to overcome uniqueness of objects by reproducing them. The idea of universality and equality reached its apogee, which transformed the very meaning provided by fine art photography.

The question of whether photography can be an art arose with the advent of photography. In the middle of the19th century, serious doubts were expressed that the machine could replace the artist, and art could be technological. At the beginning of the 21st century, this question unfolds in a different way. Does it make sense in the search for a photographer-artist when photographic technology is accessible to everyone, and the world is full of images?

According to Wells (2015), the art’s functions are likely to alter with time. The traditional photography canon was associated with the dependence on rituals, while the new form emancipated its autonomy and diversity. From the interpretation of what is being seen, photography transformed into recording the objectives the camera is pointed at. The focus on the background and foreground is abandoned, and the relationship between these issues is not acknowledged.

Today, photography can undoubtedly be called one of the most dynamically developing art forms. Most importantly, the review of the literature and exhibitions shows that photographic creativity is developing in different directions. Firstly, it is a documentary and genuine recreation of reality, while this branch of the history of photography has long been considered quite far from art (Lobinger 2016). However, today many pictures from the illustrated editions of the last century arouse well-deserved interest among art critics. Many of them rightfully occupy an honourable place among the works of famous artists.

At the same time, it does not matter at all what the photo story was dedicated to, be it festivals or playing activities. The reality conveyed by a master becomes the key issue that characterises a photo that causes genuine interest among the public as they allow immersing in the given atmosphere.

Another direction of modern snapshot development is the so-called social photos that are no less in demand. It is possible to note the photographs that are devoted to various social problems of modern society. Smith and Lefley (2015) state that a documented and true reflection of modern reality is expected to cause a response in the soul of the viewer, no less than the canvases of a brilliant painter. This is one of the main purposes of art: the communication of social problems, values and tendencies that are currently and previously affect people. Among the contemporary rituals that are adopted by snapshot photography, it is possible to enumerate web forums, online magazines, and interactive exhibitions, which reflects the shift from an individual approach to visual standpoint.

The second line in the development of photography as art is the creation of an artistic masterpiece that displays the inner world of the creator, and not the surrounding reality. For this, the artist needs to deform the cast of reality using a variety of techniques and methods. Like a true artist, using the editing and printing of several negatives, a photographer is able to create an image that will not correspond to the fixed nature. For a long time, this particular direction of the development of photography was considered the only true art (Hjorth & Hendry 2015). The photographers seeking to establish their status as artists did not recognise photojournalism as creativity in general. According to them, the documentary photo does not correspond to the aesthetic purpose of photo art.

Cultural Transformation

The expansion and change of the visual environment under the impact of new tools for fixing visual images have always promoted the formation of a new culture of perception, to eye training, and to a change in the technique of vision. Over time, the need for the selection of visual images has become actualised. The essence of this process is not in the passive perception of things around, but in the ability to distinguish the main thing from what is seen, in the ability to spy, notice the typical (Tifentale & Manovich 2015). A special visual culture of perception is formed and constantly undergoes changes, by which we mean a special part of culture related to the developing ability of a person to perceive visual information, analyse, interpret, evaluate, compare, represent, create an artistic image on this basis.

Contemporary photography not only serves as a powerful tool of communication but also reflects and even shapes digital culture. In the epoch of social media and Instagram-overload practices, there is an evident shift towards the hyper-digital ages, in which photography acts as the most intertwined medium (Tifentale & Manovich 2015). The widespread manipulation of digital photographs is associated with the application of the imagery elements that are downloaded from the Internet and often blended. Some social media, such as Instagram, offer the built-in option of using filters.

In comparison with the fine art photography that was taken, modern movement refers to remaking, remixing and recontextualisation (O’Hagan 2016). Instead of going on the streets or events, the photographers prefer changing their background and foreground artificially.

The recent exhibition in Tate Modern called Conflict, Time and Photography presents a range of vivid examples that help in tracing digital culture changes. The memorable image from the Vietnam War of a shellshocked American marine (1968) by Don McCullin shows the moment after fighting, with the eyes of the soldier full of sightless shock. This aftermath of conflict fascinates the viewer with its in-depth openness and truthfulness since it was shot right after the combat. The author of this photography took advantage of the momentum: there is smoke, the fall of buildings and the marine turning to the camera.

However, Cumming (2014) considers that this photograph may have too much of photojournalism, which arises the question of whether it is a piece of art or not. Indeed, on the one hand, it turns out that by capturing the moment, the photographer reproduces its uniqueness; on the other hand, photojournalism is defined as the collection, editing and presentation of news materials.

In the contemporary digital culture manifestation, the scene of making photographs seems to be reworked. In order to create such a photograph as the one discussed in the previous paragraphs, it requires much efforts to restore the background since the buildings became ruins, and memorial was built. Another variant is that the place of fighting was merely forgotten, and there is nothing at all. After the restorative works on the terrain, the photographer makes countless shots from different perspectives.

In an attempt to recall the history, the modern artists try to find the remaining presence of Vietnamese soldiers or equipment to make the stories explicit (Cumming 2014). As it can be viewed from these two different approaches, the one used by Don McCullin and the other one that is likely to be applied by the hypothetical contemporary photographer, not only the perception of photography but also the process of its creation changed drastically.

The connection between the past and present is the cornerstone of fine art photography. Many artists pondered over the identified challenge and resolved it in their unique manner. For example, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” by Roger Fenton presents the “the hellish lunar landscape of the Crimea in 1855, deserted except for the fatal cannonballs that have so recently destroyed the young soldier” (Panke 2016, para. 5). This photograph allows for establishing never-before-made connections between the events of the Vietnam War and modern days. In particular, the trauma of war and the destruction of buildings reflect emptiness, absence and broken fates of thousands of people (Conflict, time, photography 2015).

It is rather powerful how the mentioned photograph with the wounded landscapes penetrates the inner world of a viewer and promotes at least partial understanding of that time. With regard to the impact of this photo on culture, one can undoubtedly claim that this historic piece of art aims to teach people and prevent conflicts in the future by showing their devastating consequences.

Known as Picasso’s woman and photographer, who captured the process of creating Guernica, Dora Maar, deserves attention as a talented surrealist photographer, experimenter and photojournalist. At the beginning of her career, she was engaged in painting for some time, but, realising that her vocation was photography, she was completely immersed in this newest direction for that era (Dora Maar 2019). Surrealism reflected her own character and inner world: melancholic, intellectual and emotionally complex. In her works, Maar seeks ways from liberation and conventions through free figurative associations and hidden forms objects to the birth of a new reality.

Maar’s Man looking inside a sidewalk door (1935) and Untitled (1394) can be regarded as a technique of examining the human subconscious. The role of such type of art is the transmission of pictures that are irregular to one’s subjective reality, by incapacitating rational thinking and targeting one’s subconscious. This is an undisguised reference to vanitas, the baroque genre of allegorical style, whose purpose is to remind of the frailty of being. In this case, surrealistic photomontages compose a transition to the reality of the phantasmagoric space, and likewise dreams, they speak the symbolic language. This is largely reminiscent of the magical practice of shamans of ancient peoples, who, unlike modern society, were quite serious about such visions.

Snapshot photography is a powerful catalyst that changes the system of visual phenomena at the very course of development of various social phenomena. The fact of the distribution of such photography revealed a discrepancy between cultural stereotypes of the turn of the 19-20th centuries, which is characteristic of the perception of objects and the diversity of physical reality. Snapshot photography is inextricably linked with the need to peer and comprehend what has become familiar and has ceased to cause spectator interest (Shot in Soho: Times pictures featured in new photography exhibition in London 2019). The Photographers’ Gallery offers the exhibition that is titled “Shot in Soho” and presents community and creativity in this culturally-diverse area of London.

The photographs are shot across the 1980s and 2000s, the time of pursuit of love, performance and connection between people (O’Hagan 2019). The photograph called “Sauna and Massage” made by William Klein is, perhaps, the most representative one to reveal the spirit of that time. The tenor of the epoch, including post-punks, neon-lit cinema and dramatism, is perfectly captured by the artist. “Banal Glamour” is another photograph by John Goldblatt, depicting a young, naked woman, sitting in the strip club and reading the magazine (Shot in Soho 2019). This photograph shows the routine, yet the intimacy, close-up presence and banality are harmoniously intertwined, which reflects unruly mundanity of her environments.

The process of changing visual perception generated by photography led simultaneously to two different cultural outcomes. On the one hand, it stimulated the development of modernist movements, and, consequently, an elite culture. On the other hand, the perception of the phrase “on the go” formed some negligence in visual assessments, a superficial attitude to the world and a massive nature of cultural response (Wells 2015).

Due to a photograph, a person has the opportunity to see more than he or she could, critically interpreting the images and returning to the assessment of the captured image again. The widespread use of photography marked a new era in visual perception, when a person stopped peering into details since with the help of a fixing technique, it became possible to see what accidentally came into view.

Punctum and Studium: Fine Art and Snapshots

Among the numerous effects of photography, one may distinguish between the lasting emotional impact, which is based on irreducible and symbolic codes of culture. Barthes (1981) has repeatedly resorted to photographic material, analysing advertising and popular culture as a way of representing bourgeois myth. However, a separate essay cycle that is entirely devoted to photography was published during his lifetime. In Camera Lucida, Barthes (1981) essentially departs from the semiotics of binary oppositions and sees the photo as a sign that is practically devoid of the meaning. The author states that whatever it depicts, and in whatever manner it is executed, the photo itself is never visible, or rather, it is not intended to. Every photograph is in a sense similar to its referent, while this bareness of the referent makes it difficult to isolate the fundamental, universal property, without which there would be no photograph at all.

The entire space of a photographic image, or, more precisely, the process of perceiving a photo can be divided into two irreducible areas. Everything that can be named, read and, therefore, is supposed to be encoded, at least at the moment of reading is assimilated within a certain culture. Barthes (1981) determines it as “studium” that means diligence in something, a taste for something, something like general zeal or a little fussy, but devoid of any particular acuity. However, there is another experience in the perception of photography, when, at least at first glance, it demonstrates the qualities of not a passive object, but of an active subject.

This makes a resinous impact on a spectator, according to Barthes’ (1981) terminology, causing sensitive injections – “punctum”. The latter reveals the places that are not burdened with any encoding and unimaginable channels through which the eruption of reality occurs.

Punctum, which also means a phenomenon that interrupts, stops the peaceful functioning of “studium” and undermines the foundations of culture. It is punctum photography that is the adventure that makes Barthes (1981) state that in the face of some photographs, one would like to run wild, give up culture. Punctum is usually a detail and always a coincidence (the guessed intention to hurt does not hurt).

Moreover, it is devoid of meaning since all the meanings, if they are in the photo, operate at the studium level. Nevertheless, randomness is inevitable likewise the road which could not be removed from the photo of stray violinists. The inevitability, in this case, stems from punctum’s rootedness in real life, demonstrating that any photograph is a certificate of presence. Punctum’s genetic basis is the pathos and the pure representation of a photograph.

Moreover, any intentional action of a photographer that can be counted and retold eliminates the adventure. In this sense, punctum is contrasted with surprises – the shocking and incredible phenomena captured by the camera, or the special effects used by the photographer. While the nature of punctum is mobile and elusive, it is most often some kind of detail that catches the eye. Zanele Muholi’s Ntozakhe II, Parktown presents the portrait of a woman, who looks upstairs and seems to be pondering over something. The intellectual game of the look, colours and posture belongs to the field of studium since Warhol does not hide anything from me.

The spectator has the opportunity to directly read her face, and the punctum is not her body language, but the model’s eyes. In particular, Muholi’s works focus on the challenges of hetero-patriarchal representations and ideologies through the images of females who are shown as brave and beautiful individuals.

It should be stressed that the concept of punctum introduced by Barthes (1981) turns out to be infected with subjectivity. People cannot show some of their photos to others, meaning that others would not understand its context and message. It exists for the author alone, and in different opinion, it would have seemed like no more than one of many photographs, one of the thousands of manifestations of something that which is indefinite.

It cannot, in any way, constitute the visible subject of scientific knowledge; objectivity in the positive sense of the word cannot be based on it. At best, it would interest others’ studium: point (for example, clothing, photogenicity). The very possibility of punctum allows photography to go out of the general system of representation and become an irrational image, about which reality has been lost.

Snapshot and Problems Arising in a Digital Age (Accessibility, Safety and Truth)

Everyday occasions compose the core of snapshots that can be made by any person at any place and time. Some scholars believe that snapshot photography is intimate and personal, while others insist on the fact that amateur photographers act on terms of the cultural conventions. It seems to be beneficial to focus on the latter opinion since it signifies the impact of such photos, considering them as prescriptive cultural rituals.

The idea of linking private and domestic issues to the public affairs has long been discussed in the field of photography and history, which is viewed as harmony achievement. Berger (2015) states that the visual and linguistic forms of translating information are closely connected, and it is the continuation of history and traditions. The visual culture of clichés is a product of technological changes, which gave a strong impetus to some issues that became commonplace.

Along with the cultural transformation that occurred in the digital age, it is important to pay attention to the associated problems. For example, the phenomenon of selfie is the most widespread way to self-present one in social media. In this connection, the assumptions of Berger (2015) regarding the clichés become more evident: people tend to use the same filters, sizes, compositions and environment for making snapshots. The question is whether the images posted by users in Instagram or Facebook are truthful, and how truth is defined in this context. Another problem refers to accessibility that concerns such issues as disability, self-reliance, diversity and relationships. Ultimately, social media safety is one more critical problem since it lacks awareness among the users and poses significant risks to their personal data.


The mass dissemination of snapshot photography started with the advent of the collodion process, leading to the highly increased accessibility for observing other people’s lives. It was the machinery that changes the level of accessibility that is largely associated with the intimate daily life, which is shared with extensive audiences. Milionis of people make snapshots on an everyday basis, sharing personal and often passionate views of the world around them, while both their friends and strangers can see them. Compared to fine art photography that was available to a limited number of people, snapshots welcome everyone to observe them.

More to the point, the rapid raise in the participation of people in the photo making processes should be noted. Today, they seem to be more relying on visual communication based on images rather than considering them as the objects of art. The majority of people have one or more means photographic tools, which facilitates image-making.

In order to understand accessibility offered by the digital age, it is essential to discuss self-presentation. A snapshot is not a mere image on which someone looks beautiful or not, but a specific moment of reality, a material embodiment of condition, feelings, desires, emotions and experiences (Jensen 2014). Today, people are endowed with a unique ability to convey a certain meaning to photographs with their presence or an emotional story about it.

Photographing each other and the world around provides feelings of joy, inspiration and a creative attitude to life. Due to photography, one can, to some extent, create a new reality, see and fix the world, considering it from different angles, with different emotions and possibilities. In other words, this can be explained via the words of Zuromskis (2016, p. 20), who states that “private affect can be employed and regulated through public life”. While sharing and liking photos, both mass culture and individual attitudes affect each other.

Snapshot is an opportunity for a person to reveal new facets of his or her inner “I”, stop time and fix the created artistic image and conditions to show others the new prospects of the world. In photography, the contact and combination of reality and imagination take place, due to which the picture becomes a tool for mastering one’s own inner reality. The so-called gaming capabilities of photography, it can also bring an amazing feeling of freedom and lightness along with harmony of body and soul. In this case, snapshots are also a way of communication, through which, on the one hand, it is introducing to a wide audience of people; on the other hand, a dialogue with self.

Among other theories that examine the role of snapshot, it is possible to distinguish between queer theory by Berlant and Warner, which refers to understanding the factors that drive people to shoot, like, share and collect images. According to Zuromskis (2016), who uses the queer theory as the foundation, the ideal American family image plays the main role in determining the mainstream snapshot practices.

Photographing, the succeeding perception of photographs and their decoration induce different associations, some memories as well as creative imagination, which is motivated by innovative thoughts regarding possible situations (Murray 2015). This provides a person with the opportunity to impartially look at themselves: their feelings and emotions. Making visible personal expressions is put in the exterior appearance that may involve gestures, facial expressions, state, clothes, and so on (Zuromskis 2016). It can be seen by comparing photographs taken at different periods of life across one’s history.

Almost unlimited access to snapshots impacts the way people perceive their environment. The ability to break the moment and focus on it, which can be quite difficult in every day to do, engages viewers emotionally. This offers a person the basis for introspection, due to which she or he can see personal experience and actions from a different perspective. More precisely, photography may promote the feeling of being like a centre of attention, which can violate and pervert the cultural and social traditional perceptions. The increase in self-esteem, attention from other people and sometimes the whole world can affect negatively (Zuromskis 2016). Nevertheless, snapshots present a relatively safe environment, where people can allow being spontaneous, freely expressing their emotions and fantasies, playing with reality and experimenting with new methods of experience.


The relativistic philosophy defines truth as one of the direct products of culture, which changes over some periods of time. From the other point of view, the postmodernist tradition considers truth constructs culture and vice versa. Iqani and Schroeder (2016, p. 5) note that “snapshots often appear rushed, carelessly composed, taken almost by chance, thus revealing subjects (relatively) unposed, “natural.” The success of manipulation using the language of visual images is predetermined by the perceptual features that have developed by now. A great role in these changes was played by photography and the assessment of the world: people began to perceive surrounding objects and phenomena not with their own eyes, but through technical means (Jensen 2014). Accessibility, the accuracy of reproduction, easy replicability along with the visual expressiveness of photography stimulated society to the rapid and widespread adoption of cinema and television.

At the same time, there was a need to imagine the world in thorough fragmentation, and the focus on secondary objects increased considerably. Later, modernism offered several options for constructing an image based on the work of the imagination (cubism, abstractionism, et cetera.). In art and photography, a person sees a world divided into fragments. Time and space lost the character of these constants, while the aspect of fluidity and the ambiguity of their perception were updated (Lehmuskallio 2016).

Visual perception became one of the factors in the transformation of culture, in which the main role was attributed to the image. For example, in Instagram, beauty vs ordinary is expressed in special postures that make the body more attractive are popular. However, in real life, these people can be quite different, which undermines the credibility of snapshots in social media.

The category of truthfulness is one of the most important for understanding the role of everyday photography in modern culture. One of the main factors in the rapid development of everyday photography is its understanding of photography as a means of providing an objective reflection of reality (Berger 2011). It is the comprehension of photography as a way to preserve the appearance of a situation or object, at a certain point in time, in a certain place. Such an approach determines its use in various spheres of human activity – from scientific, medical and judicial practice to private and family life, not to mention the media.

The basis for such an attitude to snapshots is the specificity of the technology for obtaining a photographic image, which implies the apparent elimination of subjective interpretation of the image. It also includes the understanding of truth as the correspondence of the image of the reality depicted by it. The realism of photography, the similarity of what is shown to what exists in reality, is conceived as a consequence of the technological features of creating photographs (Lehmuskallio 2016).

The process of the appearance of a fine art photographic image consists of the effect of light on photosensitive materials – this is true for digital photography – and the subsequent fixation of the resulting image. As a result, objects draw themselves without the help of an artist’s pencil: they independently create their image on photosensitive materials using the appropriate equipment. The photographer serving this equipment does not need to transfer the image manually, as happens in the process of creating a hand-drawn or pictorial work.

It should be remembered that snapshot, no matter how plausible an imprint of reality it may be, in any case, bears traces of the intentional or unintentional interpretation of its author. Namely, a photographer determines such shooting factors as the nature of the lighting, the degree of proximity to the subject or the angle. In addition, on a more global scale, the photographer decides to shoot a particular plot and, therefore, determines the importance and uniqueness of this plot, making it worthy of capturing. The specific moments of the plot that are captured also emphasise certain stages of the situation development.


Social media is closely associated with snapshots that are taken by people and shared with others, having minimal concerns regarding the privacy issues. In fact, the operators providing the Internet can process personal data with the consent of its clients, with the exception of cases that are regulated by the law. The protection of personal data is a set of technical and organisational measures that are aimed at protecting information related to a particular person (Gogolin, Gogolin & Kam 2014).

It is obvious that the placement of personal data in social networks and their change without the consent of the subject can lead to negative consequences for the subject. However, the evidence shows that many users of social networks disregard the rules that ensure their safety online. For example, they share photos with their children and family, which clarifies their location for unauthorised persons. The hashtags used to describe photos also provide additional information for hackers and persons who can steal this data.

It should be stressed that adolescents and children are at a higher risk of safety violation that occurs through social media. According to Wang, Alasuutari and Aro (2014), Flickr and Facebook postings show that parents identify their birth dates and other personal information, without any protection from unauthorised access by the third parties. At the same time, the trend is that teenagers are likely to use at least the basic protection measures compared to older adults, who feel safe in social media. The behaviours of both of the identified populations can be rude and overwhelmingly negative, the former feel some tension to share their photos.

The older adolescents consider that their parents are less knowledgeable about privacy issues, which makes them use social media recklessly (Agosto & Abbas 2017). In this connection, the problem of safety requires an immediate response from society, and one of the ways to increase awareness among users is to conduct online education.

Among other issues, it is critical to understand how personal user data is violated in connection with the use of social networks and posting photos. The right to privacy, personal and family secrets, protection of honour and good name are violated when the user posts his or her photos on the network, and a fraudster uses these photos for his or her own purposes. If one’s social media page has been hacked, the right to privacy of correspondence and telephone conversations is disrupted (Gogolin, Gogolin & Kam 2014).

It should be clear that an attacker who hacked a page on a social network could store, use and disseminate information about the user’s personal life without consent. Gogolin, Gogolin and Kam (2014) suggest the framework for mitigating the risks, which includes such principles as availability, confidentiality and integrity. Both users and organisations should work in cooperation to minimise safety and security threats.


In conclusion, to a large extent, the process of transformation of visual culture was due to the emergence and spread of photography. Significant changes in the nature and perception of photography were a sign of the actualisation of visual culture. The visual image becomes one of the dominants that are necessarily included in the culture. The dissertation found that the classical understanding of fine art photography was replaced by a modernist approach of snapshot photography, becoming decisive in human interpretation of the world. Producing visual images, both of the mentioned versions of photography affect the perception of reality and even shape it. This investigation was important to determine the links and transformations that occurred in culture under the impact of fine art photography and snapshot photography.

The researcher learned that technology is a powerful tool that develops culture, which is also complicated by the social changes and attitudes of people. This research and practice are closely related in a way that theoretical underpinnings can be translated into practice to better understand the roles of photography. At the same time, the dissertation highlights the basic problems that exist in the fields of accessibility, safety and truth with regard to the digital age specifics.

It was revealed that snapshots characterise society’s increased openness and readiness to share their lives and enjoy those of others. However, the risks include unauthorised access to sensitive data, unawareness of social media data protection and the change in one’s consciousness. The conclusions made in this paper allow suggesting that future research should focus on the ways that can improve users’ experience in social media. In particular, people’s snapshot making, liking, sharing and commenting should be examined from a cultural perspective.

Reference List

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List of Illustrations

A shellshocked American marine
Picture 1. A shellshocked American marine (Tate Modern).
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Picture 2. The Valley of the Shadow of Death (Tate Modern).
Picture 3. Untitled (1934) (Tate Modern).
Man looking inside a sidewalk door
Picture 4. Man looking inside a sidewalk door (1935) (Tate Modern).
Sauna and Massage
Picture 5. Sauna and Massage (William Klein) (The Photographers’ Gallery).
Banal Glamour
Picture 6. Banal Glamour (John Goldblatt) (Tate Modern) (The Photographers’ Gallery).
Zanele Muholi
Picture 7. Zanele Muholi (Ntozakhe II, Parktown 2016) (Tate Modern).