Photographs were never meant to disappear, or vanish. We take photographs to remember, and that, better than our aging memories can. The whole act of taking pictures is now an almost natural extension of our remembrance process.

So, when the next highly trending app does exactly the opposite, it becomes exquisitely mend bending.

Snapchat , which apparently is doing ravages in the already crowded teen age social media phone app ( over 1 billion images shared already) , allows you to take a picture, share it and put an expiration time on it. I can be 1 to 10 seconds. After that, the photograph vanishes forever.

It is very popular because teen, Tweens and young adults can now send compromising images without the risk of seeing it go viral.

In other words, this app is 100% anti photography and anti social media. No saving memories and no sharing.

Is the world of photography going to become overtaken by this trend like it has with Instagram? Will we see 3 seconds photo exhibits ? Will news photography be seen for just slightly longer than it took to take them ?

Extremely doubtful. Snapchat satisfies the needs of a very particular usage: teasing. It is assumed that the majority of images exchanged on snapchat are of sexual content, or otherwise compromising for the sender. They are not, in other words, for public consumption and are solely intended for their untrusted recipient only.

The popularity of this photo app shows that whatever we considered the core value of photography -remembrance, recollection, sharing – are in fact to be discarded. It provokes us into rethinking why we take images.

Snapchat screen shot

Furthermore, photography here is used solely as a one on one communication tool. Like a spoken word. As soon as it is spoken, it is gone. And intended of one person. Nothing that photography previously had claimed as it strong points. In fact , quite the opposite. But then, since photography was not invented with a purpose but more as a solving a chemistry challenge, why not.

There is one aspect of Snapchat that the photo licensing professional might appreciate and that is the ability to time the view ability of the image. It has been talked about extensively because it would allow the licensor to set the duration of a license ( a day, a week, a month) and then the image would turn itself off.  However, the complexity of making this work outside of the closed environment of an app has made it impractical.

Snapchat is probably not going to survive. It is one of these one trick pony companies whose feature can easily be copied and added to an existing more popular photo apps like Instagram or Hipstamatic. However, should the concept survive, it will create a whole new category of images , and reasons to take photographs, that no one would have ever expected just a year ago.

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