instantly available at just so many pushes of a button, and the low complexity and cost of going digital have catalysed a transition in popular photography from the qualitative to the very, very quantitative.
At the same time, pictures have become more and more central to modern popular culture: the image finds us everywhere. In particular, the rise of social networking has given the image a certain dynamism, with Tumblr acting as an infinitely scrolling photographic shrine to fuckyeah! winners of the genetic lottery, whilst Facebook allows us to recreate our entire existence as one extensively captioned photograph. This is in combination with a speed of upload which reduces the distance between existence and documentation until the two are perfectly contemporaneous. We begin to posit part of our existence in images added immediately to the online profile of our lives, tightly braiding real life with its instant, imaginary representation. Not only do we begin to assume that memory is a predominantly image based function, but we start to lack the patience that memory requires. We become more sentimental towards the present than we the past, so homesick for unfinished moments that we feel compelled to immortalise them with all the alacrity that superfast broadband allows.
We find ourselves in a position which allows us to quickly and efficiently represent our lives in images. But the more images we produce the more disposable they become, and more often than not they end their short lives in a Facebook landfill of removed tags and dodgy auto-enhance after one brief lark as someone’s cover photo. Digital photographs can all too easily become throwaway additions to a world already saturated with images; immediate, yes, but somehow unauthentic in comparison with the lives they imitate. Because digital photographs do not succeed negatives but exist immediately, they do not develop or become, they just are. Unlike analogue photography, which requires multiple processes for a perishable, physical outcome, digital photography instantaneously arranges a series of immortal pixels which exist now as they always will.
For a generation whose idea of memory is conditioned by sepia hued prints of stylish grandparents and rolls of 35mm developed on the hour at Boots, it can be tricky to reconcile the need for immediate representation with an unauthentic feel or aesthetic. Digital photographs are ageless and timeless, with an unfitting, unfulfilling lack of physicality. They don’t seem like vehicles of memory simply because they will not age as we age. Corporate communities like Lomography have latched on to this attitude by marketing a photographic culture which is careless and authentic, shot ‘from the hip’ rather than deliberated as a potential profile picture. Still, actual analogue photography doesn’t go quite far enough. If we had the patience, digital photographs themselves would eventually look dated, but we barely have the patience to shoot a roll of 36 and twiddle our thumbs whilst it’s being processed. It is here that Fauxmo usurps
Software like Instagram imitates the effects of analogue photography, lending a feel of physicality, permanence and gravity to our photographs and somehow, as a result, to our life as it passes and is documented. It provides a satisfying and ‘authentic’ means of representing our future-to-be, that is, the past we already anticipate looking back on. Because of their digital format, the results have an immediacy which beats contemporaneity: we publish photographs of food we haven’t yet eaten, drinks we haven’t yet drunk and outfits we haven’t yet worn. At the same time, though, it allows us to translate our own, real experiences into something seemingly more real and more physical than pixels on a screen. Today, we want better than the best of both worlds, and Instagram gives us photography which is more instant than instant and more real than real.