Imagine going to an art show where the paintings literally self-destruct after you see them. That’s what Max J. Marshall and Paul Paper have virtually cooked up with This Is It/Now, the world’s first Snapchat photography exhibition.
The show features six photographers who each take over the group account for a week before passing the baton. Like all images on Snapchat, the pics and mini-videos vanish anywhere from a few seconds to 24 hours after being viewed. Looking at them is an experience you can’t revisit — unless, of course, you take a screenshot. “Snapchat brings photography back to its camera obscura roots as a fleeting and ephemeral image,” Marshall says.
Some might think of the exhibition as a refreshingly anti-consumeristic statement in a world where a single photograph can sell for millions. But it’s also easy to see it as an attention-grabbing gimmick. How meaningful can such a brief interaction with any work of art really be?
But even while the show embraces a trendy messaging platform, it also cleverly pushes its boundaries. Snapchat doesn’t allow for in-depth editing aside from a few basic filters, but the photographers have all found interesting ways to manipulate their images anyway. Nico Krijno and Rocana Azar played with placing physical filters and plexiglass in front of their cell phones’ cameras, while Sergiy Barchuk turned his camera on its side to capture a trippy perspective, and David Brandon Geeting videos his iPhone that plays carefully prepared video. The resulting images are small, thoughtful works intended to make you pause. But not for too long.
Ultimately, there’s just not enough time to chew on their subtleties. The lifespan of each image is too short. Besides, there are so many other images on social media — whether artful, mediocre, or just plain silly — also vying for center stage on our smartphone screens. And maybe that’s part of the point. In a way, This Is It/Now is both a celebration and critique of the way we circulate images, showing what’s gained and what’s lost when we devour so much so fast.
This Is It/Now runs on Snapchat through September 13.