henry woide | photographer

The Social Photo

PHO702 Contextual Research / MA Falmouth University 

Chapter 1: Documentary Vision

In the first chapter, Nathan discusses the fluidity of the image and ephemeral nature of the social photo.

‘Liquid economies don’t produce as many heavy things, like automobiles, but rather lighter things like software and information. Cameras and photos have become increasingly liquid, the image that once existed as a solid and comparably heavy paper object is now near-weightless digital information, which thus moves across space with increasingly little effort.” (Jurgenson, 2019)

I agree that modern digital cameras have increased the fluidity of the image but only through there delivery and not there creation. In my current topographic practice observing quiet landscapes around the M25 I am still utilising analogue technology which still needs to be processed, scan and formatted using computer software. I enjoy the slowness of the film and it’s reduced ‘liquidity’. 

Even with the use of digital technology which I often use for my commissioned work, I would argue that ‘liquidity’ of the image only comes in the process of sharing the work as for most photographers the process behind the image and research involved before making work has not increased inefficiency through Nathan may argue ‘creating imagery has become comically easy’ it is still an intensive part of the image.

I agree however distinguishing between “the dichotomies of “amateur vs. professional” and “digital vs. analogue” matter less for the social photo than the relations between power, identity, and reality” (Jurgenson,2019). The social photo is a low resolution, short-lived imaged viewed on a screen only a few inches wide, I think it is therefore important for a photographer to capture the attention of the viewer in the few seconds it remains in someone’s photostream.

“The social photo can be like an emoji, like the cartoon palm tree, playing with the distinction between the world of actually existing objects and their symbolic meaning.” (Jurgenson,2019).

The iconography of the image is quite valid, as a short-lived small visual in a stream of photographs which continue to flow past our screen maybe only a first impression is made. We hope that we catch the attention of the viewer and resonates with them. What Roland Barthes describes as the ‘punctum’, the photography of the burst party balloon may resonate and remind us of memory of happier times or iconically it may instead remind us that we are unable to celebrate occasions in the current coronavirus pandemic.

“This documentary consciousness gives one something to do, to turn every moment into one that is potentially productive, like a tourist of one’s own experience.”(Jurgenson, 2019).

Photography invites documentation, categorisation and questioning with our relationship of what we see. However this invites us to act much like a tourist photograph it says I was here, I did that and I am still living life.

Though they may seem whimsical they do have a purpose they are a friendly hello or a letting others know what you’re up to. I would, however, argue that this does, in turn, ask the question of how someone represents themselves on social media, as a photographer I often want others who follow me to think about the why and the context of the photograph. I like to leave as much to the imagination to let the viewer build the rest of the story as they see fit and let them contextualise the work relative to their life.

Chapter 2 - ‘Real Life’

“The critique of social media should begin with how our reality is being augmented in more and less desirable ways instead of chasing the fiction of a nonaugmented innocence.” Augmentation in photography is something I have no explored yet but have recently been influenced by the work of two practitioners Mishka Henner and Noemie Goudal which I discussed in my previous blog. Both of there work questions are a digital reality, camera, as a matter of fact, to represent what it sees in front of it.

I no longer believe the camera does tell the truth though I have been striving for that in the documentary work shot. Following in the footsteps of topographic photographers such as Mark Powers, Stephen Shore and David Farrell but now I want to question the constructed reality we see in our day to day lives, whether that is digital or physical the separation between the two is blurring.

The Reaction

#holidayspam, Henry Woide, 2021.

“The “tourist” with his camera is an outstanding symbol of an alienated relationship to the world. Being constantly occupied with taking pictures, actually, he does not see anything at all, except through the intermediary of the camera. The camera sees for him, and the outcome of his “pleasure” trip is a collection of snapshots, which are a substitute for an experience which he could have had, but did not have.” (Jurgenson, 2019)

#holidayspam is a reaction to The Social Photo it questions the holiday in 2021, whether we will be able to go, if a trip to the shops is now a replacement, that the cellophane wrapping of the suncream is to say it is now off-limits, the dreary weather of the British Isles means we won’t need it anytime soon. It ethically questions the choice of supermarkets to choose what is and isn’t ‘necessary’ and what we as consumers can buy. The low-resolution image the mundane thrown into question in the stream of photographs seen in an Instagram story, I want this image to make people question the reality of this photo and hopefully, the sharp cut edges of the shelf tell of the intervention of the photograph as straight documentation.


JURGENSON, N. (2019). The social photo: on photography and social media.

Barthes, R. (2010). Camera Lucida: Reflections on photography. (R. Howard, Trans.). New York: Hill and Wang