Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snapshot, Picture, Image?

Out on location recently and in my attempts to create art I kept having an internal conversation with myself regarding the output of my efforts.  This led me to toss around terminology that is typically used as interchangeable, but is it really?  I'm talking about the difference between the terms of snapshot, picture, and image.

For me snapshot infers a documented record of a scene; a literal record of time and place, a moment in time to cherish as a memory.  It brings to mind for me at least, a "Kodak moment" that was typically found in photo albums with the paper corners holding the snapshots in place.  Or oftentimes the glue had aged to a point where the snapshots fell out of the album as you gingerly turned the pages.  Snapshots typically documented treasured family moments; birthdays, holidays, and vacations to name just a few of the normal events captured.  Snapshots typically consist of either candid approaches or orchestrated gatherings by getting everyone in the picture to smile and "say cheese".  In today's terms it's the volume of what is found on flickr, Facebook and other digital media formats where the digital photo equipment promotes an unlimited quantity within seconds and sites permit global sharing.

This brings me to the next level, pictures.  Again this is my interpretation but I think pictures represent a level above snapshots.  Pictures seem to be a straight, literal shot of "just another pretty picture" of a scene typically of nature, landscapes or some portraits.  There is an aesthetic value but no emotional connection is established with the viewer.  There seem to be an abundance of tasteful and even masterful pictures of sunsets, starry skies, water, etc.  But again, it may make one stop and look for a moment of bliss but the viewer is not emotionally engaged and quickly moves on to look for the next pretty picture. There is an absence of artistic intent and composition that quickly renders the picture as a "drive-by" unworthy of more devoted time by the viewer.  In the realm of our visual world I think the majority of visual stimuli would be considered pictures.

Onto the next level of images.  I can clearly differentiate between snapshot and pictures, but images takes it above and beyond where we're getting into more esoteric ground.  Subject matter is endless and interpretation is only limited by the artist's creative potential and conceptualization.   I think images are elevated to a level of art by an emotional connection with the viewer as predetermined and created by the artist.  The image transcends a literal translation and can often deal in abstraction by extracting the literal context. It doesn't have to be an abstract, although this clearly makes the point.  Images have artistic intent, purposeful composition using design elements to convey a message, and makes an emotional connection, an engagement that lingers long after viewing the image at first glance.

After ruminating about the terms of snapshot, picture and image I can clearly see they are not interchangeable terms.  It's not a question of one being better than another.  The underlying theme is that they are distinct in their approach, audience, purpose, technique, equipment, and outcome.

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