A Photo Series Questions Our Can’t-Stop Photo Compulsion

What’s to become of people taking pictures of people taking pictures of…? An art-school send-up of our infinite jest point-and-shoot.

Memes aren’t made to last. They’re diversionary by nature and slapped together with absurdist of-the-moment content, which is pretty much the point. But memes sometimes live on–and not just in other memes.


This kind of meta memes-in-memes headspin informs the photo series “Nothing to Hide.” The images, by photographer Bobby Scheidemann are an art-school sendup of the people-taking-pictures-of-people-taking pictures meme that peaked in 2011.

In the series, Scheidemann’s hand sneaks into the frame of each photo, wielding a vintage 35mm Olympus Stylus Epic point-and-shoot.

Scheidemann, a photography grad from Texas State University, first showed the images to colleagues, who promptly expressed bewilderment or annoyance or just being over the meme. “They told me to stop taking pictures of myself taking pictures,” he tells Co.Design. Later, in a class critique, the room sat unmoved, dead silent for almost the entirety of his enthused 15-minute presentation. At that point, Scheidemann, undeterred, decided to post his images on the Internet, where they always belonged.

In his photos, prosaic details that add up to a series of charming but intentionally empty visual non sequiturs: the top corner of a shower embellished by a shampoo stain; forgotten watermelon rinds on a porch; a stream of paint spilling onto a cutting board.

The scenes are as compelling to look at as watching steel corrode, or a slow slide through a stranger’s uninspired Instagram or Tumblr feed. But that’s the point for Scheidemann–his, and our, can’t stop taking pictures compulsion. Though he knows there isn’t anything here of interest, he can’t fight the impulse to document and share it, in all its non-eventfulness.

When he was planning and shooting the images, Scheidemann says he was thinking about the numbing effects of a hypervisual culture. “I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with my intake of imagery, so much so I wasn’t sure after a while which images in my head were mine and which weren’t.” Who hasn’t been there?

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.