Photo Essays

Locating Tweets IRL

by Jillian Steinhauer on January 25, 2013

Larson & Shindelman, photo from the "Geolocation" series (all images via

Larson & Shindelman, photo from the “Geolocation” series (all images via

Even though, like most people, I use Twitter publicly, I still often get the feeling that my tweets exist in a kind of social media bubble — that they’re shielded from the rest of the world, read only by the people whose feeds they happen to pop up in. That is, of course, just the imaginary feeling of comfort that social media inspires, and the reason it works so well. In truth, everything I tweet is a public statement.

Still, it’s hard to locate those tweets in the proverbial “real life,” in the world outside of the internet. This is precisely what photographers Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman have done in their Geolocation series, which uses publicly available GPS metadata attached to tweets to approximate their location. Larson and Shindelman then photograph the sites and reproduce the tweets below the prints, offering up combinations that are alternately hilarious, heartbreaking, mysterious, and inspiring.

I’m not sure the Geolocation pictures reveal any deep human truths, nor do they say too much about their respective Twitter users; but their most important function may be to remind us that those users are people (minus the bots, of course). James Holland wrote an essay for Hyperallergic a few weeks ago about the shifting concept of social exchange and the question of how our human, flesh-and-blood selves fit into the new picture. “That is therefore the heart of what social media signifies,” he wrote, “an unspoken challenge to sift the material effects of a seemingly immaterial medium.” Larson and Shindelman’s photos seem to be a nod in that direction — a way of locating ephemeral tweets in concrete and trees, pinning them down in city- and landscapes and in the process, grounding them in a graspable reality.








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