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The impact of social media on photography

14 May

Getty Images, one of the world’s leading creators and distributors of still imagery, video and multimedia products, has launched its newly redesigned The Curve: Technology and Telecommunications, a multimedia research report on visual trends shaped by the democratisation of technology and the rise of social media

In a multi-part series, The Curve explores three key themes around the world’s visual transformation and the changing role of photography, powered by the marriage of technology and telecommunications.

The second issue of The Curve: Technology and Telecommunications slated to go live later this month, will examine connectivity, identity and creativity providing insight on the cloud, content management, the personal information economy and more. The June issue is the final component of The Curve: Technology and Telecommunications, and will analyse content by digesting trends for distinct demographic segments, geographies, education uses and more.

Getty Images’ research into visual communication for The Curve has unearthed a number of emerging industry trends that highlight how the merging of media and technology are democratizing content and encouraging connectivity through shared visual experiences. This research is supported by case studies and commentary from leading industry influencers, a brief overview and selection of which can be found below, with a more detailed analysis available online at

From the Getty press release:

Photography: The Killer App and the Photographic Datascape

Social photography is altering the meaning of photography, and greatly affects how brands have utilised imagery to develop impactful, engaging campaigns. In 2011, 491.4 million smartphones were sold, up 58 percent from the previous year according to Gartner Research thus exponentially boosting the number of phones with instant photo-sharing capabilities. Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, believes that photography is the ‘killer app’ of web 2.0. Mirzoeff wrote in FOAM magazinethat new social sharing of personal photographs heralds a new age of the self-image—“photografitti.” Mirzoeff underlines that photography for creators, consumers, sharers and buyers has become the prime vehicle in social sharing because it’s an expression of self that is the most valued form of connection—the exact reason brands and advertisers look to engage with photo communities such as Flickr.

Cameras versus Camera Phones: Post-Snapshot

By examining Smartphone social sharing as the tool of the new snapshot, The Curve uncovers the driving forces behind the ‘authenticity’ trend. The digital snapshot of the new century is a kind of fast photography, improvised—more like an experiment than visual documentation—making it attractive to advertisers and brands. Photography as a democratic, widely available art form began with the family portrait and was originally commercialized as the ‘Kodak moment’ by the company who brought to the consumer market affordable photographic tools. It has since become the contemporary shorthand of everyday life with photo-sharing websites such as Facebook and Flickr. Digital enables the sharing of hundreds and thousands of photographs every hour, allowing users to create images, manipulate them, and distribute them as easily as exhaling.

After Authenticity

Authenticity is a cultural and social value and an aesthetic style that The Curve has been tracking since the Aspirational Environmentalism report on Green issues in 2005. Authenticity is an always-on attribute for brands, with marketers turning the volume up or down according to the prevailing social trends.

With a cachet of authenticity for a group of younger smartphone users, Samsung, who promoted the Galaxy Note with a Facebook campaign in association with street artist, Notasso, emboldens a wider, louder message for new technology companies—these brands are a catalyst, an engine for personal creativity at the very heart of taking photographs, which, in turn is driven by the snapshot forms of Flickr and Facebook, and the nostalgia filters of Instagram.

The Charisma of “Everyday”

From playing dress-up to reconstructing family history, photography is the pre-eminent medium for sharing, storytelling and self-expression and advertisers are tapping into this creative addiction. It reinserts the idea of the human hand in what is a cold, digital process and it is why certain kinds of retro-media looks have been popular, in campaigns such as the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, which was reintroduced to the market after a nine-year absence, with an ad that looks like it was a Super-8 home-movie from the 70s.

The mythology of the everyday and the nostalgia filters gives imagery an aura. It’s at the heart of the appeal of Sony Music’s Instagram – crowdsourced video for The Vaccines, and Ford’s Instagram ‘Fiestagram’ campaign. In a fast-changing world, the personal pictures taken, uploaded and shared assert an individual identity and a place in the world; the act of sharing is a way to connect as individuals with a larger community in a visual way.

Memory and Storytelling

One of the most telling signs of this shift towards photography as a medium for connection is1000memories, launched in 2010. It is essentially a way of recreating a family history through imagery in the age of digital image abundance, when shared photos quickly fall to the bottom of a newsfeed.   Dear Photographalso embarks on a journal of visual storytelling, in which the contributor finds an old photo and takes a photo of it, framed by the exact place the original was taken. The time elapsed between the two photos creates an emotional narrative, that unites generations and illustrates the story of connection.

The first issue of The Curve: Technology and Telecommunications is available online at or view the report as a PDF or via the iPad. Previous editions of The Curve include the Energy issue, the Finance issue, as well as a report focused on the Health and Wellbeing industry.