Matt Webb wrote an insightful comment on a photograph of the three principals of BERG at the end of the year, and it’s prompted me to hang some thoughts I’ve had about parties and photography since I arrived in San Francisco.
As Webb says,
we’re in an era of self-marketing, where everything is about the control and manipulation of personal image: dating, social networking, and jobseeking are all about advertising the self
The trend is exemplified by (the recently bought by AOL) about.me, whose pitch seems to be “big picture (preferably of yourself) + short bio + social media updates = your new business card URL”.¹ It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s not merely an American startup, but one based in San Francisco.
Another example of how people care about their self-image is the way photography happens at parties. There’ll often be a photo booth, either a traditional box or a studio setting in the corner of the room, with a lighting rig. (One party, just before I arrived, even has its own Flickr account.) The result is a series of really nice photographs, but also a nice distinction between when you’re “on” and “off”, so people who don’t want to appear can stay out of the way.²
By contrast, in London, people have parties in small flats, or meet in pubs. It’s dark, and gloomy, and photos don’t come out well, so they tend to happen less. However, because people can get a camera out at any time, there’s also less of a chance to get ready, so there’s more chance the photos won’t come out as well.
I’m not sure what to draw from this. The observation that some Americans are more willing to show off while Londoners are taciturn is neither new nor surprising, but this particular way it manifests does seem at least mildly interesting, to me anyway.
¹ Personally I’d rather have my about page on my own domain. If only I’d update it…
² It’s not strictly an SF phenomena (this is in NYC, for example), but I’d not really been aware of it elsewhere until I arrived here.