Wednesday 19 December 2012

Shoot the walls

UPDATE: So, I drafted this post several weeks ago, before the current kerfuffle around Instagram's Terms of Service. I may wish to replace every mention of 'Instagram' with 'my favoured photo-sharing service'.

The photo above was taken about a month and a half ago, at the Royal Ontario Museum's #instawalk - a day-long event where keen Instagram photographers were invited in to tour the museum, take photos, and share them using the hashtag #instaROM. (You can see a selection of the photos taken here.)

I love this idea. As a sector, we're still sorting out our approach to photography in our spaces and of the objects displayed in them, many of which are not 'ours' but on loan to us, many of which are still in copyright, but also many of which are not. Perhaps rather than getting stuck in gentle flame wars on Twitter and roiling about in policy discussions, we could - like the ROM - try running experiments designed explicitly to invite photographers (of all ilk) in.

The Dowse's spaces are possibly not big enough or grand enough for this to work. The nostalgia-heavy, dramatically saturated nature of Instagrammed filters seems better suited to museum dioramas, dark corners, the old, complex and unexpected. (This also, again, helps get around the copyright factor - gosh, I'd love to organise one of these at Auckland Museum, Te Papa, or Toitu Otago Early Settlers.) But I do love the potential for the social side of this idea - of a photography meet-up at the end of the day, of a slideshow of the images presented in the space (projected out a window at night?), of seeing the building and the objects through the eyes of visitors, of people putting their on stamp on the place.

Personally, I have a bit of a thing about Instagram. It's irrational and ridiculous, but I feel I can't use it because the technology would make me look like a better photographer than I am. Silly, right? But sincere. So I stick to taking my dull, often fuzzy, uninflected pictures. And recently, I've taken and shared far more of these. It's given me a new appreciation for and interest in the way we insta-archive our day to day life (this is something I'm going to explore when I talk about Ben Cauchi's work at City gallery next February.)

I'm desperately looking for a segue between the above and the three images below. Let's go for imagining that rather than discovering Philip George Poppleton's photographs of a 1959 scientific expedition to Campbell Island in the National Library's digitised collections year ago, I had followed along with him in real time. The series is the perfect social media prototype - everything from startling nature shots to haircuts, beer yeast, Christmas pudding and giant cabbages. He would have been an internet sensation - filters or no filters.

Philip George Poppleton, Helichrysum bellidioides, c.1959. Ref: PA12-1425-061. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Philip George Poppleton, Photograph of a lichen (Cladonia species), Campbell Island, c. 1959. Ref: PA12-1426-086. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Philip George Poppleton, Helichrysum bellidioides, c. 1959. Ref: PA12-1425-061. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Robyn said...

I feel I can't use it because the technology would make me look like a better photographer than I am.

I'll tell you what, some people I follow on Instagram take crappy photos that are not at all improved by the filters. (But I still follow them because they're my friends and I like them and I'm interested in their crappy photos.)

Also, don't be so sure that the Dowse wouldn't work. The camera on an iPhone 4 (or higher) is very good at getting into nooks and crannies - sometimes ones that the naked eye might not otherwise notice. The next time I'm in the 04, I will Instagram (or whatever the social photo app du jour is) the Dowse.

Courtney Johnston said...

Thanks Robyn. There's a lot of kindness in this comment :)