Published August 7th, 2014
Why do people take so many photographs nowadays? What makes us share our photos to the whole world? These questions, among others, will be answered in the #snapshot exhibition at the Finnish Museum of Photography. It would not be possible without an exceptional collaboration between the museum, a software company, and academic scholars.
In June the museum people attended a demonstration of Futurice’s prototypes for the exhibition. After that the work has continued during the hot summer months. Now the final versions are transferred to the exhibition space. In the last picture are chief curator Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger from the museum (left), Futurice service developers Janetta Koskela (back) and Marja Käpyaho, and service designer Risto Sarvas (right).
Coffee and other energy drinks are enjoyed in an atmosphere of anticipation at the Futurice office in Helsinki. Here the software technology for the #snapshot exhibition is created. In addition to all kinds of drinks, hundreds of working hours have been spent in creating, developing and programming the interactive installations that demonstrate the social functions and culture of contemporary photography. The end result will be that visitors of the #snapshot exhibition can truly interact with and participate in the snapshot culture of today: in taking photographs, sharing them and questioning the ways in which our concept of privacy is changing.
An unholy alliance between a museum, academics and a software company.
The idea of a photography exhibition about everyday photography was born already in 2008. However, the time was ripe only five years later. The Finnish Museum of Photography wanted to take a step towards showing contemporary photography culture, and two social media and mobile photography scholars from academia joined the initiative. Dr. Risto Sarvas, who was behind the original idea, inspired a group of software engineers and designers from Futurice, a Finnish software company, to join the planning team. Dr. Sarvas believes that all parties are necessary to present the current snapshot culture in a public exhibition.
“The scholars can explain the social background behind the contemporary culture. The museum’s photography experts, on the other hand, understand what is significant in the current culture from the point of photography. The engineers and designers are needed to make all this into an interactive experience that makes people think and feel the different sides of the phenomenon”, explains Dr Sarvas who works as a service designer at Futurice, as well as an adjunct professor at Aalto University.
The exhibition has been planned for almost a year now. The discussions, idea generation sessions, and interviews have gradually divided the responsibilities among the parties. Futurice has created the systems to enable the interactive exhibition. The team has aslo built digital installations about to demonstrate the sharing culture and social nature of photography today. The museum brings the historical background and the context of contemporary art, and leads the practical work of putting all things together. The scholars, primarily Dr Asko Lehmuskallio from Tampere University and Dr Sarvas from Aalto University, have brought their knowledge and research into the planning and design work and into the book published as part of the exhibition.
#Snapshot brings “the digital” into societal discussions
In the past decade Futurice has grown from a software startup into a company with offices in four European countries. The company designs and builds digital services for its client companies. Futurice was already designing the first photo sharing mobile services in the early 2000s, so participating in the #snapshot exhibition was an easy decision. But Futurice’s history was not the main reason for joining. The reason was a desire to take part in societal discussions about digital technology.
“Our history in photography services and our way of taking part in societal discourses are combined perfectly in the exhibition. We have a clear view on how the future is built because we design and develop the services of tomorrow for our clients.”
The contemporary photography culture is all about sharing images. The Majority of people hardly know anything about what data they reveal about themselves when they share their pictures on social media. The installations made by Futurice let the visitors experience what social media is and how it is connected to our privacy. Dr Sarvas believes that every snapshot photographer should understand what happens to the pictures and the data collected on the backstages of digital services.
“We at Futurice are professionals in building software and feel that it is our responsibility to shed light on how technology works. In this way we contribute to the discourses on what kind of an information society should be built in Europe and globally. In the Finnish Museum of Photography we have found a perfect partner in making a societal impact”, Dr Sarvas concludes.
The collaboration has worked fluently and the objectives of the exhibition are set high: to update the concept of snapshot photography. Pictures taken by ordinary people, the snapshots, are the key in that. Alongside these photographs will be artists’ work commenting on the contemporary photography culture, namely works from Erik Kessels from the Netherlands, Catherine Balet from France, Niklas Kullström from Finland, and Sisse Stroyer from Denmark.
For more information:
Heikki Pölönen, communication specialist: 0400 673 837
Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, intendentti: 050 518 7619
Risto Sarvas, Service Design Lead (Futurice) & adjunct professor (Aalto yliopisto): 050 384 1553
Press photos: https://db.tt/YyGhJApN