Why do you share photographs? (Snapshot to WeChat)

Open Eye Gallery's Snapshot to WeChat opens 5th April 2018

Cover image: Beijing Silvermine, 2009-ongoing © Thomas Sauvin, part of Snapshot to WeChat at Open Eye Gallery

Why do you share photographs? (Snapshot to WeChat)

Ahead of Open Eye Gallery’s next major exhibition, exploring identity and networks and the influence social media has on the role of photographs in every-day life, we asked our readers for their thoughts on the subject.

Forget social media, forget digital imaging. This question was about sharing. Why, given any choice would you want to share images of yourself with other people? It’s something that’s always personally baffled me. I lean more towards sharing images of my cats, or the work of other people and completely shy away from putting images of myself out there – rarely actually taking any.

The themes of this exhibition at Open Eye, and the responses of our readers severely made me question why that is, and to me that has always been the role of art; something that helps you realise something about yourself that you didn’t know existed.

I’m an introvert, and I’ve never shied from that, but I didn’t know quite what the effect of that was. With space to reflect and to ask the question of other people, it’s clear that the role of my own introversion is probably a desire for privacy and keeping myself to myself.

This isn’t an article about me though. I’m just one mark on a vivid spectrum of reactions to this exhibition. From grandmothers to professional photographers sharing an image means completely different things.

Their reactions make up these pages, and stand alone to explore how important the issue is in contemporary life.

Snapshot to WeChat: A Migration of Identity, opening 6th April at Open Eye Gallery, is an exhibition built on the work of Anthropologist Dr Xinyuan Wang, and photographers Thomas Sauvin and Teresa Eng.

Their work focuses on people’s representations of themselves in everyday life in modern day China.

Part of China Dream, a season celebrating Chinese contemporary art in Liverpool, this exhibition might seem miles away from our lives, but the way these apps are used in China is not so far detached from how they are used in the UK, and the real life, human, excuses for sharing images is a global question that we can all relate to.

Questions put to the public, and to professionals behind the exhibition:

“I use photos to connect with people and raise awareness by sharing Black Art, Music and Photography that inspire me with my own personal creations challenging Black stereotypes and promoting a carefree me as well. This is to educate people on African Art and supporting young Black creatives on their political and cultural views, things that maybe some cannot talk about but can express by photo.”
Tanya Marowa

“As a visual ethnographer, I share my field work experience and evidence using photos as what I study, people’s use of social media, is highly visual. Also I share people’s feelings, which cannot be fully articulated and captured by language, using photos.”
Xinyuan Wang

“My husband, Stephen Hickling, is a metal detectorist. He came across a box, and found a card from the First World War, out of a book. His name is Ike Schwarty, died in 1915, buried at Ypres, 4th fusiliers. We’re sharing this image, hoping we might find some family.”
Sharon Hickling, The Fourth Dimension Trust, Charity Shop, Huyton
If you know Ike’s history, or can help find his family, contact The Fourth Dimension Trust on 0151 482 0044

“As a visual artist who solely works with Chinese abandoned images, I constantly try to offer and alternative vision of life in China at the end of the 20th century. In 2009 I embarked on an unusual adventure: salvaging discarded negatives from a recycling plant on the edge of Beijing that were destined for destruction. Today it encompasses over half a million of anonymous photographs spanning the period from 1985 to 2005. It constitutes a visual platform for cross-cultural interactions, while impacting on our collective memory of the recent past.”
Thomas Sauvin

“As a seller, I share all things. I share pictures and videos, particularly when I’m travelling so my family can know where I am. I share them as messages, not public. I have over 200 friends on facebook, but 10 are like family. If a hospital needs blood, I will share that as public, or post to help the community, but my own photos are share with my family.”
Ali Kahn

“As a mother, I’ve got family around the world, it’s just to stay connected, showing pictures of my children to family and friends”
Aimee McLarney

“As a writer, I tend not to share many photos of myself, unless other people are in the photos too. I don’t especially see the need. I do love Instagram but I mostly use it to share pictures of things I’ve seen, especially if I’ve written about them.”
Julia Johnson

“As a photgrapher, a lot of photography has been undermined by mobile phones. You can’t get an exclusive any more. By the you get back, edit the photo and uploads it, there are already hundred of grainy camera phone images online.
It’s one of the images photographers put watermarks over images online, where Facebook and Instagram take ownership of your work, and it gets recontextulaised when you share work over those platforms.
It’s like someone’s opened up a diary that isn’t theirs and said “this is my life.”
Tony Knox

“I’m interested in this unique moment in history where digital technology has changed how we relate to ourselves and to others. It’s easy to look at online profiles and think that everyone’s lives are perfect – so we constantly compare ourselves to others. Meanwhile, we forget that everyone’s social media lives are heavily edited. I’m wary of the effects of persuasive design and how much of our information we give in exchange for free online services.”
Teresa Eng

“As a jeweller, I don’t share as many photos on Facebook as i did when I was younger, which might be a privacy thing. But I share a lot on instagram as a sort of diary type sketchbook as it’s nice to look back on, and acts as advertising in a way to build a loyal customer base and keep people connected to new designs”
Kathy W.

“As a writer & producer, I share photos to illustrate my stories. I am a very visual person and I use them like a shorthand to explain something immediately. It’s quick, it’s powerful and it’s often beautiful. Sometimes its for sharing interesting places or objects, other times it might just be a visual comment about something that has moved me.”
Moira Leonard

“As a mother, normally it’s family photographs, if we go on holiday we show people when we get back. I think every photograph’s important though, otherwise you wouldn’t take it.
As an industrial photographer, my son wanted to be an MP but they said, with your qualifications we want you doing surveillance. He goes up in helicopters taking photos of the ground. I said “Oh, you’re a spy!” and he kind of is.”
Anon

“As a mother, I don’t share many photos with a public audience but I do share photos with my family and close friends. This is probably because I know they will be interested in them. Y’know, my pets, my new this, that or the other, or maybe something funny I’ve seen somewhere. I do like to share alerts that warn everyone about the latest scam, just so that people are made aware.”
Lyn Wainwright

“As an artist, I take a lot of photos, but don’t share many! A lot are as reminders to me of exhibitions/information/places I’ve been, as inspiration for my creative process, research, or just because I find them interesting!
I share a few on social media/to people on my mailing list for promotion of my artwork, but I don’t find it instinctive to do so! I occasionally share some personal ones with friends/family.”
A. B.

“Shared photos for online social media revolve around finding beauty in a situation or a moment in time, whether it is with friends, family or through a still life, or an outdoor scene. It’s about sharing the beauty and essence of a particular moment with others. Sharing my actual photographic work is different and doesn’t sit comfortably. It feels too deliberately attention seeking. But, if you’re an artist of sorts it’s now viewed as a must. I wonder, at some point if there will be an artistic backlash.”
Carol Emmas

© Teresa Eng, Liverpool, 2018
© Teresa Eng, Liverpool, 2018

Snapshot to WeChat: Migration of Identity is open at Open Eye Gallery from 6th April – 17th June 2018
Launch night: 5th April, 6-8pm

Article compiled by Patrick Kirk-Smith for Art in Liverpool