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A Snapchat by Roxana Azar (screenshot courtesy Max J. Marshall)

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?

Screenshot of a work by David Brandon Geeting (screenshot by Hrag Vartanian)

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.

A Snapchat by Ruth Van Beek (screenshot courtesy Max J. Marshall)

Snapchat by Nico Krijno (screenshot courtesy Max J. Marshall)

Snapchat by Ruth Van Beek (screenshot courtesy Max J. Marshall)

A Snapchat by Sergiy Barchuk (screenshot courtesy Max J. Marshall)

Snapchat by Sergiy Barchuk (screenshot courtesy Max J. Marshall)

This Is It/Now runs on Snapchat through September 13. 

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

10 replies on “Cutting Edge or Gimmicky? The World’s First Snapchat Exhibition”

      1. 🙂 … tired? Yes, tired of things like this being promoted as “art.” You phrased the question yourself, my answer is “gimmicky.”

        When people like James Bridle and others are doing truly innovative and engaging work, we actually give oxygen to things like this and give it life by even associating it with art.

        Chacun à son goût … this is not mine.

        P.S. Did you not get my stab at humor? These are ephemeral, yawn and you’ve missed it.

          1. I keep quiet on here, most of the time … this is the first time I’ve felt the urge to comment. I appreciate the broad range of your reportage …

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