When photo sharing becomes an art form…

The idea of photo-sharing is for users to take and immediately upload photos and videos, snapping moments of their daily lives and sharing them with the world, that is, other photo-sharing users within the same network.

Gabriel Santiago

Photo by Gabriel Santiago

This free social networking phenomenon had blasted through the internet and the media, offering not just a free application, but also the allure of using filters and photographic tweaks to make one’s selfies and photos more enchanting and artistic. Instagram, for example, is one of the most popular photo-sharing platforms at present. Originally launched in October 2010, it rapidly gained popularity, achieving over 100 million active users in less than two years. It was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for approximately US $1 billion. Other media platforms similar to Instagram include Snapchat, Flickr and Imgur.

The idea seemed to be a new and refreshing concept in 2010, however, it actually wasn’t.

One particular man in fact had been immolating and sharing his daily life through his photos every day for over eighteen years, way before such social platforms got hold of the concept. This man was the American photographer, film maker and circus performer Jamie Livingston, who, between March 1979 and October 1997, captured his life and the landscape around him in New York through a single picture every day with his Polaroid SC-70 camera.


Jamie Livingston’s photographic diary had started while he was a student at college, and comprises of around 6,700 photos, taken right up until the day he died in October 1997. The photos chronicle everything; his appreciation of street life and the urban moments around him in the city, as well as personal everyday occurrences like birthday celebrations or going out for a date. The story we read in the photos starts out simply enough. A young man enjoys his life, he goes to picnics, attends the theatre, meets his friends and so on. Later, they portray more poignant moments throughout his life – his engagement, his marriage, and in the end even – tragically – the onset of his brain tumour and the subsequent recurring visits to the hospital.


Above: 08-02-79

Jamie died when he was 41 years old, without having ever exhibited his impressive photographic project. However, after his death, his friends Hugh Crawford and Betsy Reid put together a public exhibit at Bard College in New York, and a website using the photos and called it Photo of the Day: 1979-1997. Thousands of visitors a day visit the website. There are too many photographs to take in during one visit, and people usually end up checking out the photograph taken during the date of their birth.

Snapping a photo of one’s day and trying to save one special moment in the midst of many is not an easy feat. I can’t help but admire this artist, in that through his inspiring work, we can truly appreciate not only the life around us, but those instances which make up each and every person’s life, and which, unfortunately, can never truly be captured.