Another photographer we are encouraged to look at is Joachim Schmid. Schmid is an artist who has been collecting photographs, buying them from flea markets and since the advent of Flickr, has also been collecting them online. He digitizes most of his found photos. What he discovered in his amassing of the photographs is that people tend to photograph the same things in similar fashions.
I look at his website at the section where families pose next to their cars and this struck a deep chord and got me thinking about the many photos that we as a family have of similar scenarios. It was the done thing when relatives came from afar and they were shown the sights of the city. One would stop at a tourist attraction or restaurant and everyone would pose next to the car – a record for posterity. I’m reminded of Berger upon referring to a painting depicting an art collector’s study, who says ‘they show him sights: sights of what he may possess” (Berger, p 85). I believe this statement is applicable to photographs as well. We probably have an innate need to subconsciously show the world our possessions, or experiences. Which is probably the reason one only sees happy photos on Facebook. Friends tend not to share their sad or tragic moments.
Our stilted and awkward group poses in these photos are probably deeply instilled from our exposure to the old paintings, whether we have seen them on gallery walls or in books of photos, I think subliminally the imprints are made in our brains throughout all generations across the globe, and so we pose in a similar fashion.
Personally I don’t think this is going to change. These idiosyncrasies are what give snapshots their quirkiness, their inherent character. It is often the slightly out of focus, stiffly posed photo that is going to become a treasured memory for someone. When our family emigrated to Canada nineteen years ago, we had sold everything we possessed. The only things we brought with us were our clothes, a couple of boxes of books, our children’s drawings and all our photographs. I was prepared to do without my creature comforts, but my boxes of memories were not negotiable. To throw them out would have been like wiping out our lives, erasing the past entirely.
Berger, John. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books