Between exhibition and contemplation: considering everyday routines on Blipfoto

Forrest, E., Hall, H. (2014, March). Between exhibition and contemplation: considering everyday routines on Blipfoto. Paper presented at Helsinki Photomedia 2014, Aalto University.


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Abstract

Why do we still have a powerful compulsion to show our pictures to each another? Ever since visiting guests popped their Cartes-de-Visites in the Victorian parlour tray, there has always been a need to share our own photographs with others. Whether displayed behind plastic in personal albums, behind glass in frames and on walls, upon screens within phones and computers or on paper, lovingly thumbed in our wallets; photographs are the most personal of items that we display for others to look at. The most recent extension of this exhibition space is the online photography site, where for the last 10 years or so members have been sharing their pictures to a worldwide audience, to strangers as well as friends.

This paper will consider some of the ways in which the online photography site Blipfoto is constructed and explored by users, and how the performance of photography further extends into different forms of display online. Taking a broadly philosophical approach, this work will borrow extensively from the conceptual vocabulary of anthropologist Tim Ingold (2000, 2008). His ideas on everyday movement and entanglements are used as a starting point to consider more deeply how users habitually interact within various different environments.

Writing about dwelling and perception in everyday life, Ingold (2000:229-230) proposes that ‘knowledge is cultivated along paths… and that people’s knowledge of the environment undergoes continuous formation is the very course of them moving about in it.’ When considering movement in photography-based virtual places, this paper argues that Ingold’s vocabulary is useful because it fits the inherent non-linear structure of Blipfoto and the wandering of its users across various digital terrains.

Ingold’s notion of ‘the meshwork’ (2008) is also examined in more depth: a concept that has also been used by Pink (2011) to examine further the relationship between movement and everyday photography. Ingold believes that the dominance of networks (where the emphasis is put on the direct connections between people and things) is flawed. Instead he insists the habitation along the trails of everyday life is messier than simple straight connecting lines, and is more akin to a knotted meshwork of lines.

In this paper the work of Ingold is applied to an online photography site as a way of considering its continued power and role within the everyday lives of its members. Using interviews with users, new perspectives can be formed on why online communities of photographers continue to remain popular as sites of contemplation, exhibition, movement and habitation.

Slides available at http://www.slideshare.net/HazelHall/forrest-hall-finland

References
Ingold, T (2000) The Perception on the Environment London, Routledge
Ingold, T (2008) ‘Bindings against boundaries: entanglements of life in an open world’ Environment and Planning A 40(8) pp. 1796 – 1810
Pink, S (2011) ‘Sensory digital photography: rethinking ‘moving’ and the image’, Visual Studies, 26:1, pp. 4-13
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Authors

Hazel Hall
Director of CSI
h.hall@napier.ac.uk
+44 131 455 2760

Associated Projects