Elevating the ordinary to extraordinary

More often than not, photography is primarily about the subject that we are framing to capture that moment in time in which we are able to immortalize it. This said ‘subject’ can be something that captures the attention of many, or it could just be something that doesn’t interest anyone else but the photographer.

Essentially, taking a photograph of a particular subject, is in itself a process of making a choice; The decision to make something stand out from it’s surroundings. It could be anything boring that we see in our daily lives, like a child eating ice cream, or an old man pushing a cart. But once that shutter is pressed, it shows that a decision has been made to bring that particular subject to attention.

In the society we are currently in, photographs are mostly a social tool. We use ‘self photography’ to take pictures of things like events that we attend, or products that we just bought and took a picture of just to tell the facebook world that we’ve got that new item on the shelf that everyone’s craving for. If you look closely at the photos posted on social sites, there is a constant factor in all of them in which there is this presence of the need for everything to look good. It’s as if there was a benchmark set for how things should look in photos.

Can we eat now? PLEASE????

From this, we believe that in this age, vanity rules over photography especially when it comes to photos that are being posted on social sites. However normal looking and ordinary the subject of a photo might be, we constantly have the urge to make it look nicer in photos. Be it through editing, by changing the camera angles or just simply by taking multiple shots of it just to convince ourselves that there’s going to be a ‘better’ photo the next time we press the shutter. In this way, we find that we constantly try to elevate the ordinary subject to make it appear out of this world to others.

This very same concept of self-induced vanity in photography applies to the documentation that we are currently working on. We decided to take pictures of our wallets to document our expenditure and the subconscious reactions that we experience through this documentation. As we go on taking snapshots of the our wallets, some of us became more aware of how messy our wallets are. This is most probably because of the vanity that we explained earlier on. We subconsciously reacted to the stereotypical thought that people would probably think of us in a certain negative way if they were to see how messy our wallets are. This in turn gave rise to the need to tidy the contents of our wallets before taking the picture itself.

Photograph being part of our vernacular

In the past, when photography and cameras were just created, pictures can only be taken in the studio due to the sheer size of the machine, and it also was only meant for the rich and not for the masses.

19th Century Studio Camera

However, when George Eastman created the “Kodak” and “the Brownie”, it revolutionized the whole idea of photography. Pictures can be taken anywhere and everyone had access to it.

Early Kodak Advertisement

“The Brownie”

So much so that it became a part of our communications. Gone were the days where people have to painstakingly think of words to describe a place of beauty or having to spend days and months of painting to re-create what a photograph can do in seconds. With just a snap of a finger, a photograph is able to tell someone how magnificent a monument in another country is or how the war brought upon death and destruction everywhere.

This led to it being part of our everyday lives today. Nowadays, almost every mobile phone out there has a camera attached to it, making it accessible. It was also very easy to have the photos that were taken, available for viewing. Anyone can just snap a photo of anything that they find interesting and upload it via the Internet and everyone will be able to view it. There are also many mediums on the Internet now that assist us in showcasing our photos and our snippets of the past.

Using a camera phone to take pictures

An example would be the much maligned Facebook Timeline.

In the past, Facebook was just a collection of photographs or albums and status updates of people. With the new revamp, Facebook has organized our photos in accordance of when it was uploaded or when we are tagged in photos. This creates a window to our past. Now we can go through our own profile and find out how much we have changed and things that we were doing back then and not doing now.

Through this change, Facebook has even more so become part of our lives; they are essentially helping us to create a timeline (no pun intended) of how we evolved as an individual without any hassle of manually creating photo albums. Everyone, including ourselves, will be able to look back through the events that shaped us as the people we are today.

Photography can also be viewed as an extension of our vision and perception. Concurrently, it can be seen as a distortion or abstraction of reality. It is a significant aspect of our modern lives as it gives us the opportunity to communicate visually.

A picture taken through the lens of the camera, shapes the subject into an idea that is potentially capable of holding different meanings for us as individuals. Photography changes the way we used to perceive reality and each picture taken embeds an alternate realm parallel to the world we live in.

We seemingly go about our daily lives, taking the act of photography for granted as we try so hard to rationalize and present ideas through mediated forms of communication. Ironically, the message we convey is very distant from the reality we hope to portray. Photography has become so integrated into our vernacular that we innately use them as a tool to market, distribute and advertise our ideas.

the use of a photograph in a brochure.

Photographs are used to communicate ideas in advertising, storyboarding, marketing and also in various pre-production work-flows of larger scaled projects. In the realm of marketing, photography plays an important role in highlighting the features of the product.

As consumers, we are largely concerned by the physical appearance of what we buy as compared to what we read. Companies photograph the product, hoping to capture it in a positive light. Consumers develop different perceptions of the said product by looking at the photograph imprinted on the packaging. This simple act of photographing has made huge ripples of impact on the way we communicate in a professional context. It affects the rate of demand, the popularity and the desirability of the product.

On the other hand, photographs are being used for shock-advertisements, a controversial form of promoting ideals and beliefs through the use of photographs that attract your attention.
Below are some of the examples.

One of our groupmates actually had the experience of using photo-storyboarding as he was from a course that specialised in film and production. He, as a director, used photographs for the purpose of planning in pre-production processes. For instance, in a film set, he used a series of photographs in a photo-storyboard to visually discuss his perception of the script to the camera man. The storyboard assisted him in composing the aesthetic, the angle, the distance and also the expression of the shot. He actually realised how important a part photography plays in conveying the director’s vision to the camera man.

Not only have directors been using photography to communicate better with their crews, social web developers have also taken this advantage to make photography as a form of social media. Instagram is one social media that was born from this idea.

A distinctive feature of Instagram is that it confines photos to a square shape, similar to Kodak instamatic and Polaroid images, in contrast to the 4:3 aspect ratio typically used by mobile device cameras.

Instagram is a free photo-sharing programme that was launched in October 2010 and the number of users has reached more than 30 million.

It allows users to take a photo, apply a digital filter to it and then share it on a variety of social networking services, including Instagram’s very own.

For most Instagram addicts like us, almost everyday when we wake up, the first App on our mobile phones that we’ll fire up would be Instagram. Our timeline would be updated and we will be fed with happenings that we’ve missed out while sleeping. We’re also able to view pictures that friends all over the world upload.

Relationship between fans and artiste’s will also be on a more personal level, as they’re able to keep up with what their idols everyday life.

Instagram users will get to view each and every picture their followers took and if they love that particular picture, they would “like” it. The amazing thing that we feel about Instagram is that it allows us to form a community through photo taking.

Instagram has been a great medium for photo enthusiast to share their work and passion for photography with the masses. They will be able to exchange comments and even knowledge through feedbacks of others.

Instagram has also been used as a business platform for businessmen as a marketing and advertising tool to promote or sell their services. This is a common practice nowadays especially for budding entrepreneurs who might not have a huge capital to buy spaces for ads.

We can see that Instagram can also be used as a form of motivation for some to reach their own personal goals. Our friend who is currently on a 7kg to go mission, post his daily routines and regimes on Instagram. He will then receive encouragement from others, motivating him and at the same time putting pressure on him to achieve his goal.

Instagram has also made the world closer in the sense that you’re able to keep up with your love ones from the other side of the world through their daily uploads.

We believe that Instagram has elevated photography in a light whereby people are able to relate better even when they are not professionals. It has also made it so much easier for us to communicate in our daily lives through photographs. It is amazing how Instagram has evolved photography into a medium for factual communication of ideas.

Without realising it, photographs have become a major part of our lives. If you were to ask anybody now, whether they can go about life without photographs, the answer that you will get will probably be a BIG FAT NO.


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