Smart phone photography, psychogeography and the vernacular

Vickers, Richard (2015) Smart phone photography, psychogeography and the vernacular. In: CONTEMPHOTO 2015, 9-10 June 2015, Nâzım Hikmet Cultural Center (NHKM).

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper traces the impact of technology on vernacular photography and the moving image, exploring technologies relationship to identity and the urban. In the mid-19th century, the era that saw the birth of photography, the poet Charles Baudelaire wrote a portrait of the flâneur as a reconnoiter of the city. In the 1920’s Walter Benjamin proposed that Baudelaire’s flâneur was significant in the developing concept of modernity and urbanization, and that the rise of consumer capitalism in the early 20th century signalled the demise of the flâneur (1983). Today we may challenge Benjamin’s proposition, as nothing signifies current consumer culture than the smart phone, the ubiquitous symbol of the era: these devices with GPS geotagging, utilized by many, perhaps make contemporary flâneurs of us all. In her 1977 text ‘On Photography’, Susan Sontag applied the notion of the flâneur to street photography (pp. 55) saying; “In fact, photography first comes into its own as an extension of the eye of the middle class flâneur, whose sensibility was so accurately charted by Baudelaire. The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes.” The flâneur is the urban wanderer, the dérive, a concept central to psychogeography, is an unplanned journey through an urban landscape, an exploration guided by architecture and circumstance, aiming for a unique authentic experience. Situationist Guy Debord defined the dérive as “a mode of experimental behaviour linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.”(1958) The early 21st century has seen the development of smart phones with ever-increasing media recording abilities, GPS, always on access to the Internet, maps and a range of apps to suits all requirements. These devices may signify the final stage in the process of the democratization of photography that began in 1900 with the release of the Kodak box Brownie camera that made photography affordable to the masses. The nascent amateur photographer, capturing scenes of the everyday and the prosaic, began a new genre of photography: the vernacular of the snapshot. Social media networks such as Facebook, micro-blogging service Twitter and media sharing platforms including YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and more recently the short-form video sharing service Vine, facilitate the instant sharing of the vernacular (still and moving) to family and friends or the public at large. As Rubinstein and Sluis state: “the networking of the snapshot provides something which vernacular photographers have always lacked: a broad audience.” (2008) What then is the relationship between smart phone photography, psychogeography and the vernacular in the 21st century?

Keywords:smart phone, photography, vernacular, Social Media, psychogeography
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
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ID Code:17630
Deposited On:11 Jun 2015 09:07

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