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Instagenic

March 2015

In 1977 the American writer and film-maker Susan Sontag released her seminal book On Photography: a collection of essays that originally appeared in the New York Review of Books between 1973 and 1977. While Sontag used these essays to discuss the role of photography in Capitalist societies in the 1970s, her profound opinions are perhaps even more relevant and important today. Sontag could never have foreseen the invention of the smartphone, the integrated digital camera and the rise of social media ‒ or the inextricable bond between them ‒ but there’s no denying that her thoughts resonate with today’s most popular way to share photographs: Instagram. 

According to Sontag, photography can both certify experience, or refuse it, “by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir”. The title of this exhibition is a play on this idea, where the photogenic is now replaced with what is worth Instagramming ‒ a search, in essence, for the instagenic.

The 81 experiences in this exhibition, each a personal souvenir of the Cape, have been through this process twice: first through their conversion into images by the individual Instagrammers, and second by their selection by the curator for this show. Through them the exhibition encourages the visitor to interrogate the concept of the ‘instagenic’, and to consider the way in which digital images are consumed through the theories first introduced in On Photography.

Michael Chandler & Bianca Packham