Snapshots to Snapchat: Why amateur photography matters, part two

Snapshots to Snapchat: Why amateur photography matters, part two

Not everyone was pleased by the rise of the snapshot. Professional photographers disparaged the haphazard, often out-of-focus shots from amateurs. Alfred Stieglitz, an art photographer, predicted that “Photography as a fad is well nigh on its last legs.” Still others complained about “Kodak fiends,” people who always had their device on hand, constantly taking pictures. Sound familiar?

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Most people used their cameras to have fun, whether it was preserving family memories, chronicling vacations, or making jokes. There were trends (like modern mannequin or plank photos) that included breaking the news, where people broke their their heads through holes in newspapers. Some amateur camera users considered themselves to be more serious photographers than these Kodak fiends and their crazy snapshots. In the early 1900s, they formed several organizations to promote photography as art rather than a hobby. The most prominent was the Photo-Secession, founded by the previously mentioned Alfred Stieglitz in 1902. To these serious photographers, snapshots lacked aesthetic and technical expertise. Within a few decades, however, some artists returned to snapshots, considering them as a form of American folk art. As time passed and cameras became embedded in American lifestyles, artists became more comfortable with the continuum between everyday snapshots and high art photography.

It is easy to see the parallels with today’s camera fiends. We see young people and other early adopters using the latest photo apps, from Instagram to Snapchat. Again, we see people mock these amateurs, with their poorly lit pictures of food or of goofy faces. But everyone taking photos with their phones is continuing a tradition started with Kodak fiends, a tradition of documenting the everyday lives of ordinary people.

 

Sources:

The Invention of the “Snapshot” Changed the Way We Viewed the World, Smithsonian.com

Kodak and the rise of amateur photography, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kodk/hd_kodk.htm