Quick Review: Personal Photography, An Everyday Art

On Monday the 2nd of November, snapshot photography researcher Patricia Holland gave a talk at Coventry University on ‘Personal Photography: An Everyday Art’ in which she spoke about 20th century family photographs. Holland was keen to bring to the importance of the everyday photography and stated that these personal photography by everyday “amateurs” is not as universally recognised as professional photography as studies tend to focus on more widely known photographers. This lecture highlighted the importance of understanding the political and social importance of domestic photography, as the image becomes a social interaction or communication with those you share it with. True to form, the title of the lecture was presented by an accompanying photograph that depicted herself at the beach with her mother, it’s always nice to add that personal touch.

What I loved about this lecture was how she was able to relate it to modern times, such as her demonstrations of how we new record our personal world. Holland casually and rather amusingly used her mobile phone to record the room for around 5 seconds, then it a slide on the ‘3 Social Moments’ used a Facebook screenshot of another individual to represent the moment of sharing and viewing, as well as the concept of ownership and copyright.

These 3 social moments, including the one I just mentioned, were as follows; The moment of taking, the moment of organising and the moment of viewing/sharing. The debatable view was voiced by Holland herself that the moment of organising could possibly no longer exists as we move further away from the family album and closer to the digital folders, making the collection of photographs more accessible “Everyone has a personal collection of thousands, if not millions of photographs” but this reduces the time in which we spend looking and these images, reflecting on them and truly appreciating the significance. Holland also spoke about how we bring meaning behind the images in the viewing and interpreting of them, rather than the taking of the images. I find this to be an interesting statement that could again be argue. Is the meaning and the purpose of the image the same? If so, couldn’t we argue that taking a picture to send to someone you love has the meaning in the creation of the photo?

She goes on to state that there is a theoretical distinction between readers and users of photographs, in the reading of a photograph you don’t know the context behind the image and therefore it is, in your view, open to speculation as to its story. A user is the person with the context behind the image, it is more personal to you.

Lastly, Holland spoke about the most significant invention in domestic photography. The Kodak pathway that lasted 90 years and has been referred to as ” the original snapshot”. The invention of Kodak cameras made photography more accessible to wider age ranges and social classes as it was simpler to use. This also had significant social purposes, as stated earlier it was used communication exchange.

I found Patricia Hollands talk to be fascinating, she was such a sweet lady with modern views. I stated afterwards to my friend and my assistant lecturer that Holland was like “the grandmother of photography”. It was definitely a great lead on from Professor Elizabeth Edwards family album lecture a few weeks before. I enjoy this lecture thoroughly and encourage people to go to these guest lectures as they really are worth it and surprisingly ignite your passion for new things.

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