Though we are accustomed to treat language as the priority means of communication, it is well-known that people perceive most of information through their eyes. Indeed, a single image can often be more effective than a hundred of words. For this reason, photography is extremely important in social media as a means to convey our emotions, share our knowledge and even to drive changes in the society. The Public Eye exhibition in NYPL presents an impressive attempt to encompass almost two centuries of people producing, viewing and sharing photography against the background of evolving technological means.

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It is true that our society has become extremely passionate about sharing photographs. There are dozens of websites and social media with numerous tools and technologies in place to store, edit and post photographs that we would like other people to see. Why are we so eager to share the photos that me make or those we locate on the Internet? While there can be different motivations, the most important reason is that we want others to feel the same powerful emotions that we have experienced while looking on this particular photograph, ranging from excitement to compassion and from anger to pride. Moreover, people often use photographs to accompany their verbal messages or to create special atmosphere of communication. However, as long as social media are concerned, the major part of the photographs shared there are selfies or funny photos that have no profound meaning behind them. Internet users should be persuaded to share more quality and masterful photographs that display life in all its staggering and diverse shades, without being confined with their ego-centrism.

For many people today, social media have become a substitute for real life to a large extent. While social media have created many new opportunities, it is necessary to remember that virtual communication can never be as close and effective as real one, because it does not communicate the whole range and extent of our emotions. Moreover, by sitting all say long in their social media, people start forgetting about the beauty of the world that surrounds them. In social media, users can create deceptive images of their own personality; moreover, they only choose choose content that they want to see, thus cutting themselves from many other aspects of reality and narrowing their outlook. When we go outside, communicate with different people and travel to distant places, we gain more understanding of life, as we do not filter the information that we perceive. For this reason, it is needed that we reduce the time that we spend in social media and to be more attentive to the diverse and elusive moments, like those that were captured by prominent street photographers.

This photograph was included by Edward Steichen in his widely-acclaimed 1955 exhibition “The Family of Man”, which aimed to portray humans in all their striking diversity (Baker). The reason why I chose this photo is that it invokes both emotional and intellectual response from the viewer. The boy is very cute and dressed in a funny way that is evocative of the mid-nineties. However, the way he stares in front of himself so ruefully and his untidy looks make the viewers stop smiling and think about the conditions in which this boy lives. Perhaps, he comes from a low-income family and he has to work from such an early age. Or, he is an orphan and there is no one to take care of him. This way, a single photo can lead a person to deeply think about social inequality and about the suffering that children have to experience in this unjust world that adults have created.

In my view, this photograph is public as it already present in numerous digital databases and libraries, which means that it is no longer protected with copyright law. With more recent photographs, however, caution would be needed as they can be protected with copyright law and it would not be legal to share them. I think that this photograph could be placed in social media, though, quite sadly, it is unlikely to garner so many likes as selfies and photos of cats. I am convinced that masterful and intellectually stimulating photography should be more actively propagated in social media for Internet users to broaden their outlook, open new dimensions of life and develop their aesthetic tastes.