Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Thumbnails and Memory: The Subject and the Snapshot in Digital Space

Ashley Whamond.

Imaging technology has become an integral yet almost unconscious facet of what it is that constitutes industrial, social, cultural and individual human identity. Such ubiquity has the effect of collapsing or at least confusing traditional oppositions such as public/private, amateur/professional and high art/low art.

In this paper I explore the role of the World Wide Web in this leveling process, with particular attention to the appearance of family photographs on the internet in the format of the ‘thumbnail gallery’. The context of the internet presupposes a sense of purpose for the image. The impetus and circumstances surrounding the photograph’s production become new points of curiosity. The sense of strangeness thus created elicits a kind of mystery, firstly for the audience in the form authorial intentionality, and secondly for the author in the form of the anonymity and infinity of the audience.

I address the new experience of visual ephemera by aligning the circumstance of viewing such images in this new context with how we have traditionally experienced art. The electronic snapshot is powered by expressive reasoning and intentionality of display that prompts the viewer to respond in a manner that transcends mere visuality and brings into play a greater experiential milieu of meaning and metaphor.

In the details of an ever expanding visual culture reside the possibilities of an enriched human experience, identifying a shift in the mass-cultural attitude toward the practice and reception of photography. The operation and power of art seems to be less definable in terms of distinct locations and sovereign individuals. We are perhaps in unconscious collaboration with each other on the both the level of authorship and of spectatorship.


Ashley Whamond  (Australia)
Tutor in Art History/Theory
School of Fine Art
University of Newcastle

Ashley is Co-Director of Rocketart Gallery, an artist run initiative in Newcastle. In this position he is responsible for general management and curating of exhibitions. Rocketart Gallery has a focus of new and experimental artwork and is interested in facilitating the formation of artist networks, and inter-city collaborations, with the hope of enriching the local experience for artists and the greater art community, and providing opportunities for artist from outside to show their work in Newcastle.

  • Digital Imaging
  • World Wide Web
  • Visual Culture
  • Subjectivity
  • Role of Snapshot Photography
  • High Art/Low Art in Digital Space

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)