We’re all tourists somewhere. And when we’re tourists, something changes. We need to photograph things—the more popular the thing the better. So, as silly as it may be for us to take our own photos of landmarks that have already been photographed millions of times, we do so anyway. And then we show our friends on Facebook and Picasa who, if they’re good friends, will pretend they haven’t seen a thousand better photos of the Eiffel Tower before.
Spanish photographer Pep Ventosa works with these tourist photos as other artists would work with paint. In The Collective Snapshot, he remixes similar photos from popular landmarks to create wholly new experiences.
"Before the digital age, our family vacation photos ended up in shoeboxes and photo albums. Today, the web is overflowing with them. I hunt through hundreds of shots on Google and other search engines looking for snapshots people have taken of a particular landmark from a similar vantage point," Ventosa tells Co.Design. "In the end, I use a few dozen of them as raw material, rework them and begin overlaying them like multiple exposures, working with opacities, tonalities and colors, to create a new representation of the classic snapshot of our family vacation."
The resulting images are stunning abstractions, intricate, beautiful and always ever so familiar, like an old couch that’s been reupholstered but still recognizes the grooves of your rear. "I find that as I begin overlaying the images, something new begins to emerge," writes Ventosa. "An abstraction of the places we’ve been…our collective memory?"
It’s an interesting trend, combining these similar but minutely different views into a grander view of the world around us. Because what Ventosa is doing by hand, Google is attempting by algorithm. We’re becoming a bit obsessed with, not just picking and choosing the content we’d like to see (a close friend’s vacation photos on Facebook appearing in our feeds) but discovering a means to digest all the content out there, period (the equivalent of seeing everyone’s vacation photos everywhere).
As a viewer, this idea sort of makes sense. The web connoisseur hates missing out on any interesting piece of information. But how this trend will reconcile to the individual—how we will all feel when our special snapshot, taken on an anniversary trip that required a year of savings and vacation time becomes just one of a collective—well, I’m not so certain that being a photographer will be quite so satisfying then.
Ultimately, we’re all eating the same things, watching the same shows, reading the same books, and visiting the same places as many other people. The Collective Snapshot reconciles that idea in a satisfying way. To be part of Ventosa’s art would be an honor for most of us. But it’s a fine line, and almost certainly one we’ll be crossing before this trend is through.
[Hat tip: kottke]