Archive of Decline: Social Media Photography in the Anthropocene


Previously, I considered the future when I made a photograph. Exposure, the impending moments lost while changing the film, the time implicit in using a full roll of film, taking it to be developed, and the moment in which I sat shuffling the 4 x 6-inch prints all reminded me that the act of photography had a progressive and linear line for me as an enthusiast. It was a process that stretched itself out over multiple movements, actions, or moments of “time” and the measure of time extended itself towards the next roll of film, project, or future of my life with the medium. I take photographs now in the present and immediately display them as a point of reference for “now-ness” or being “live” on social media. I consider less the future and dwell on a more on instantaneous upload to social platforms. Presently, the previous future I held in scope is eschewed for what seems like a desperate waning of the moment. Instead, I am left in an anxiety-ridden state with no sense of time, of future, or of patience outside of the synaptic collision of my physical presence, Internet technology, and the “present-ness” to perform my images by “platforming” them. Within the economy of the photographic image in the age of social media, I have distorted or partially erased the need for a future, or rather a future image that I believed myself in control of. Instead, I have become a performer, an uploader of collateral imagery unmoored in a morass of others seeking to perform in the attention commodity with no real sense of economic or personal benefit outside of follows and likes, those coy dopamine metrics that encourage the cycle of ceaseless repetitions.
What are we looking at when we look at social media images? We are ostensibly looking at images of family life, food, and experiences that are transmitted for the simple purpose of extending the experience of being for those whom technology is an able possibility. We are looking at people communicating their lives to family, friends, but also to the world in general as an identity index not dissimilar to an exercise of branding the self, the consumptive self. We commit to existence through the image. Without the image and the constant need to perform its new function on social media, a paroxysm of non-being is considered. There is a heedless duality involved in making images for e-consumption that we have plunged headlong into. We believe that it is empowering to spread our lives outward to the world through images, as a cyclical sounding board for approval and for the acknowledgment that we exist. It is also a way to also delineate ourselves and our images as a product or a product of our experience.



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(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm.)

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