Photography is all about the “Kodak moments”—those special occasions that simply need to be captured on film. Since photography is about memory, it makes sense to take photos only of things worth remembering. In post-photography, though, every moment is a “Kodak moment.” The new emphasis on communication has brought with it a new subject matter: the small and mundane things of everyday life.
It focuses on “ritualized moments” defined by society and the markers of coming of age (Van Dijck 60). As a result, flipping through most traditional photo albums reveals numerous photos of such occasions: weddings, vacations, baby photos, graduations, and many more. These, it would seem, are the important things that family members wanted to remember, the moments that they wanted to preserve. In taking these photos, they were not trying to “communicate” anything. Instead, they were only trying to hold onto a memory before it slipped away.
Under the post-photographic model every moment or object or experience is worthy of a photo. If post-photography functions as a form of communication—much in the same way as language—then this shift in subject matter should come as no surprise. After all, anything that we can write or speak about can now be photographed as well. As tools for communication, cameras help to mediate everyday experiences (Van Dijck 60). Even where post-photography functions as identity formation, including everyday experiences can lead to a more honest portrayal of self.
As with most aspects of post-photography, the shift in attitudes toward subject matter has taken place alongside a corresponding shift in technology. In short, digital photography has made the image cheap and disposable (Murray 156). After the initial cost of the camera, the photographer does not incur any cost per photo. No longer is there a sense of a “wasted shot.” As a result, amateur photographers can now focus on subject matter than previously seemed too trivial to justify the expense.
So pervasive has been the shift in subject matter that, according to some, post-photography has produced an entirely new aesthetic. It is called “ephemera,” and, unsurprisingly, it has to do with the small and unspectacular, the little nitty-gritty of everyday life (Murray 155). According to Susan Murray, the new aesthetic is characterized by an “exploration of the urban eye and its relation to decay, alienation, kitsch, and its ability to locate beauty in the mundane” (155). Instead of capturing the wedding, it takes a picture of the pew.