The snap

I like to think the pocket camera (a.k.a. iThing) has democratized rather than cheapened the art of photography. If the blurry distinction between amateur and master photographer floats somewhere in the realm of 100,000 photographs, we’re all much farther along than we might have been a generation ago.

Of course, part of the intrigue of instant photography is its function as a mousetrap that strangles quality. An iThing’s mean little eye is sharp, but when paired with our shaky hands and half-formed compositional skills, its products become near-exact replicas of their ancestral Polaroids (with dashes of pixels to mark the digital divide). Last century’s pop artists routinely threw themselves into this trap with results that still fill us with superficial but alluring nostalgia. Hello, Mr. Warhol.

I pondered all of this as I stood in front of the photo booth at Holly GoSlugly’s decadent Midnight in Manhattan bash at the JSMA on Saturday. In its minimalistic incarnation, the “booth” was a tall white box with an iPad stuck to its side and the Pocketbooth app running.

The booth was set at the edge of a staircase where sweaty party animals would routinely escape for some fresh air. I flipped through the evening’s frivolous photographic experiments and discovered an interesting reaction to the iWorld’s limitless exposure.

Here were dozens of Instagram savvy people working resolutely against the photo booth’s built-in spontaneity, posing and preening like the reality TV stars we’ve all become. It was a sort of backlash against the whiplash of an instant society.

The photos I’ve presented above are exceptions, candid moments that are so often deleted to make room for more plastic smiles. A kiss provokes a sloppy grin, a brow furrows in surprise, a mustache falls, spectacles obscure and masks slip. The mistakes give us a glimpse into what our thousand-gigabyte clouds of digital snaps might be missing.

Take a moment and consider the beauty and rarity of the (truly) candid camera.

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