When I was growing up in Queens during the 1980s, pictures generally belonged in stacks of family albums stored in my mother's closet or hanging on the walls of our home. The pictures were enjoyed primarily by family members. Once in a while, those pictures were shared with our neighbors and friends. But those pictures weren't the primary way we communicated with others. We mostly enjoyed face-to-face conversations or talked on landline phones. We also wrote letters and mailed cards on birthdays and holidays. When email was introduced, it was still about the written word--only it gave us a way to communicate instantaneously.
However, today, with the proliferation of camera phones, the picture IS the message. As Joshua Chuang, associate curator of photography and digital media at the Yale University Art Gallery, told Ellen Gamerman of The Wall Street Journal, "Pictures are more sexy than words. You can absorb information from a picture faster, you can transfer images faster, you can get your message out there faster."
Of course you can find many, many pictures posted on Facebook. Users post birthday celebrations, vacation getaways, what they're having for dessert, and, of course, selfies. Even though I'm a photographer, I'm not one to post many pictures of myself and I certainly didn't see myself posting a selfie. I still wanted to use photography as a connection with family and friends. But I wanted to connect on another level.
So for the last two years, I've posted a picture, every Monday, on Facebook and simply called it my Monday Mood. It's always a picture of a face that I've created from found objects with human characteristics. I've used this method, also known as anthropomorphic photography, because it conveys an emotion and it elicits an immediate response from the viewer. It also rewards the photographer's observant and creative eye.
The creative process of producing a Monday Mood is instinctual and it continues to evolve. It's also an artistic ritual with a beginning, a middle and an end. From discovering and composing the image to posting it for my friends, my family, and now, followers on Tumblr and Twitter, who click on the image every Monday morning. The picture is the message.
Can my work have a lasting impression with my audience despite a sea of images that overwhelm us everyday online? It's difficult to say. As one artist observed in the same article mentioned earlier, "We consume images every day. The only thing is that we don't really digest them. They go in and they go out again." I would agree with that point to some extent. But I would also say that my work has formed a bond between the viewer and me. I believe the picture stands out because it has been willingly consumed by the viewer. The picture also becomes part of the viewer's online landscape and it's incorporated into the weekly routine. On some occasions I've received messages inquiring why the picture hadn't been posted yet!
The explosion in digital images has had a dramatic impact on all of us. Thousands of pictures will continue to be snapped every second in the United States. Billions more every year. How will it change us in the years to come?