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Culture shock

The shift from “Kodak culture” to “Snaprs”

When Andrew D. Miller and W. Keith Edwards began to study the behavior of amateur digital photographers, what they found surprised them. Participants in post-photography, it would seem, act differently than their photographic counterparts. They shoot more often. They share more freely. They practice photography for different reasons. In effect, they are a new kind of photographer, one that Miller and Edwards dubbed the “Snapr.”

Participants in photography belong to the “Kodak culture.”

According to Richard Chalfen, consumer photography has traditionally fallen into the “home mode” of photography, creating a “Kodak culture” (Miller and Edwards 347). Participants in this culture understand photography in the traditional sense: as a way of capturing memories about which stories can later be told.

As Miller and Edwards discovered, however, digital photography has not wiped out the “Kodak culture.” Some of the participants in their study continued to exhibit the attitudes and behaviors of photography rather than post-photography, even as they took advantage of the new digital medium. These participants tended to share photos primarily with existing social contacts (Miller and Edwards 350). They took photos infrequently—often less than once a month (Miller and Edwards 351). When they did bring out the camera, it was primarily during holidays and vacations, and the subjects of the photos were almost always people the photographer knew (Miller and Edwards 351).

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Unlike the their post-photographic counterparts, members of Miller and Edwards’ “Kodak culture” group shared their images primarily through e-mail (352). They wanted to have direct control over who received the images since privacy was one of their major concerns (Miller and Edwards 353). As a result, they were less likely to use a photo-sharing service like Flickr, which has the potential to expose private images to the public eye.

Participants in post-photography are “Snaprs.”

The “Snaprs” constituted the second group in Miller and Edwards’ study (349). Where the “Kodak culture” members were concerned with privacy, the “Snaprs” were often willing to share photos with contacts as well as strangers (Miller and Edwards 350). When shown a series of images—including one photo of a couple kissing—they rarely had second thoughts about posting the photos online (Miller and Edwards 354). As a result, all of the participants in the “Snapr” group used Flickr as their primary means of photo sharing (Miller and Edwards 352).

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A post-photographic calendar constructed from the most recent photos on Flickr tagged with boring, wedding, mundane, ordinary, trivial, vacation, stuff, junk, everyday, life, work, and Christmas presents.

The “Snaprs” also differed from the “Kodak culture” members in their photo-taking habits. They tended to use their cameras more frequently—often more than twice a week (Miller and Edwards 350). For the “Snaprs,” photography was not confined to the special moments of life. One “Snapr” expressed this understanding when he said that he preferred to post “arty” rather than “party” photos (Miller and Edwards 351). In keeping with the post-photographic mentality, “Snaprs” understand photography as a way to reflect on even the most ordinary and mundane experiences.