From the NY Times, the excellent Jenna Wortham on How I Learned to Love Snapchat. This bit caught my eye:
Its entire aesthetic flies in the face of how most people behave on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — as if we’re waiting to be plucked from obscurity by a talent agent or model scout. But Snapchat isn’t the place where you go to be pretty. It’s the place where you go to be yourself, and that is made easy thanks to the app’s inbuilt ephemerality.
I wonder if Snapchat’s intimacy is entirely due to the ephemerality and lack of a “fave-based economy”. Blogs, Flickr, Twitter, Vine, and Instagram all started off as places to be yourself, but as they became more mainstream and their communities developed behavioral norms, the output became more crafted and refined. Users flooded in and optimized for what worked best on each platform. Blogs became more newsy and less personal, Flickr shifted toward professional-style photography, Vine got funnier, and Twitter’s users turned toward carefully crafted cultural commentary and link sharing. Editing worked its way in between the making and sharing steps. In 2013, Mat Honan wrote of Vine:
It built a ground up culture that feels loose, informal, and — frankly — really fucking weird. Moreover, most of what you see there feels very of-the-moment. Sure, there’s plenty of artistry that goes into making six second loops, and there are volumes of videos with high production values. But far more common are Vines that serve as windows into what people are doing right now.
Sounds familiar, right? I’m almost positive that when Instagram was first blowing up, similar things were written about it in comparison to Flickr. Now, as Wortham notes, Instagram is largely a place to put your heavily curated best foot forward. But scroll back through time on anyone’s Instagram and the photos get more personal and in-the-moment. Even Alice Gao’s immaculately crafted feed gets causal if you go back far enough.
Although more than a year older than Vine and fewer than two years younger than Instagram, Snapchat is a relatively young service that the mainstream is still discovering. It’ll be interesting to see if it can keep its be-yourself vibe or if users tending toward carefully constructing their output is just something that happens as a platform matures.
There’s a good reason your cat looks so depressed. The days of her antics dominating YouTube are long gone. As the New Yorker’s Tad Friend explains, in addition to cats “YouTube was adults with camcorders shooting kids being adorably themselves. It was amateur hour.” Since then, YouTube has gone pro. Jeffrey Katzenberg predicts that “within five years, YouTube will be the biggest media platform of any, by far, in the entire world.” It’s where your kids are. It’s where the new stars are. And it’s where your cat isn’t. Welcome to the new Hollywood and Vine.
It’s amazing the amount of creativity you can pack into just 6 seconds of video. Many of these left me scratching my head as to how they were done (assuming they weren’t shot with Vine).
Dear God, watch this moustache explode into — well, you’ll see — and you’ll never have to watch it again. You’ll see it every time you close your eyes.
This compilation of videos shot with Vine is surprisingly good and a nice illustration of what Mat Honan is getting at in Why Vine Just Won’t Die.
Vine started from scratch. It built a ground up culture that feels loose, informal, and — frankly — really fucking weird. Moreover, most of what you see there feels very of-the-moment. Sure, there’s plenty of artistry that goes into making six second loops, and there are volumes of videos with high production values. But far more common are Vines that serve as windows into what people are doing right now. Many of the most popular Vines appear to be completely off the cuff. They don’t have to be great or slick or well produced. In some ways, its better that they’re not, because it creates a lower threshold if you just want to, you know, share a video of your cat. They have something that trumps quality, which is authenticity.
That authenticity is driving a distinct emerging culture. One that stars people like Riff Raff and Tyler, the Creator, and an army of kids whose names you’ve never heard of but who can still generate hundreds of thousands of likes and re-Vines, and even large scale in-person meetups. It’s the triumph of the loop, yes, but it’s also the triumph of youth.
Take a moment to stroll through Vine’s “Popular Now” videos, and you’d have to be willfully ignorant to not notice that those on Vine are distinctly younger, distinctly blacker, and distinctly, well, gayer than society in general. In short, it’s cool. It’s hip. It’s a scene. If Instagram is an art museum, Vine is a block party.
I was going to make a joke about this being what TV is going to look like in five years, but I think you could put 30 minutes of this on MTV2 or whatever, with six-second Vine-style ads placed seamlessly in the mix, and you’d have yourself a hit show. (via ★interesting)
Photographer Clayton Cubitt and Rex Sorgatz have both written essays about how photography is becoming something more than just standing in front of something and snapping a photo of it with a camera. Here’s Cubitt’s On the Constant Moment.
So the Decisive Moment itself was merely a form of performance art that the limits of technology forced photographers to engage in. One photographer. One lens. One camera. One angle. One moment. Once you miss it, it is gone forever. Future generations will lament all the decisive moments we lost to these limitations, just as we lament the absence of photographs from pre-photographic eras. But these limitations (the missed moments) were never central to what makes photography an art (the curation of time,) and as the evolution of technology created them, so too is it on the verge of liberating us from them.
And Sorgatz’s The Case of the Trombone and the Mysterious Disappearing Camera.
Photography was once an act of intent, the pushing of a button to record a moment. But photography is becoming an accident, the curatorial attention given to captured images.
Slightly different takes, but both are sniffing around the same issue: photography not as capturing a moment in realtime but sometime later, during the editing process. As I wrote a few years ago riffing on a Megan Fox photo shoot, I side more with Cubitt’s take:
As resolution rises & prices fall on video cameras and hard drive space, memory, and video editing capabilities increase on PCs, I suspect that in 5-10 years, photography will largely involve pointing video cameras at things and finding the best images in the editing phase. Professional photographers already take hundreds or thousands of shots during the course of a shoot like this, so it’s not such a huge shift for them. The photographer’s exact set of duties has always been malleable; the recent shift from film processing in the darkroom to the digital darkroom is only the most recent example.
What’s interesting about the hot video/photo mobile apps of the moment, Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat, is that, if you believe what Cubitt and Sorgatz are saying, they follow the more outdated definition of photography. You hold the camera in front of something, take a video or photo of that moment, and post it. If you missed it, it’s gone forever. What if these apps worked the other way around: you “take” the photo or video from footage previously (or even constantly) gathered by your phone?
To post something to Instagram, you have the app take 100 photos in 10-15 seconds and then select your photo by scrubbing through them to find the best moment. Same with Snapchat. Vine would work similarly…your phone takes 20-30 seconds of video and you use Vine’s already simple editing process to select your perfect six seconds. This is similar to one of my favorite technology-driven techniques from the past few years:
In order to get the jaw-dropping slow-motion footage of great white sharks jumping out of the ocean, the filmmakers for Planet Earth used a high-speed camera with continuous buffering…that is, the camera only kept a few seconds of video at a time and dumped the rest. When the shark jumped, the cameraman would push a button to save the buffer.
Only an after-the-fact camera is able to capture moments like great whites jumping out of the water:
And it would make it much easier to capture moments like your kid’s first steps, a friend’s quick smile, or a skateboarder’s ollie. I suspect that once somebody makes an easy-to-use and popular app that works this way, it will be difficult to go back to doing it the old way.