Today the Guardian carries a blogged article about a Snapchat:
Snapchat: the self-destructing message app that’s becoming a phenomenon
One immediately presumes this is about sex, or ‘sexting’ as Leo Benedictus refers to it. The concept that the image is ephemeral is not entirely convincing, as the article says – before it vanishes it can be photographed or grabbed from the screen. But it is a fascinating thing, and I wonder what Barthes would have made of it?
His book Camera Lucida is an amazing reflection upon the meaning of a photo and questions whether or not one photo can represent his dead mother in entirety. I must read it again.
The book investigates the effects of photography on the spectator (as distinct from the photographer, and also from the object photographed, which Barthes calls the “spectrum”).
This app is very much about the effect of the photo on the spectator – and whatever the photo depicts can only be an ephemeral object. It leaves me feeling a little squeamish – a bit like when I decided to burn all of my artwork in my studio to enable me to move on. (I confess I did actually video the process of burning!) If I received an image that meant something to me, would I be able to enjoy it, examine it, relish it, if I knew it would disappear as fast as I read it? I’m sure the first thing I would do is capture it in some way, I couldn’t bear to risk it disappearing – it might in the future come to be the one photo that represents that person to me. But then Barthes would argue that is not possible.
But in reality, don’t millions of digital images disappear in a puff of smoke every day?
Maybe the question is would we want to lose control of our images? I suspect we already have.
(here’s one I took yesterday, which I rather like!)