'Where there are children, there are many photographs' - An Ethnography of Photography in Contemporary Japan.
Inge Maria Daniels
(University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the use of photographs of children in contemporary Japan, questioning the relationship between family photography, idealised sameness and oppressive normality, the impact of commercial and technological innovations on social reproduction, and shifting notions of privacy online.
Paper long abstract:
Based on an ethnography of amateur photographic practices in the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara), this paper examines the use and circulation of photographs of children in contemporary Japan in order to explore how Japanese individuals see and imagine themselves seen as social actors both within and beyond their immediate family. In Japan, like in most industrialised societies, the arrival of a (first) child leads to the production of large quantities of photographs. Although these images tended to be primarily shared with family and friends, the availability of mobile phones with camera functions and the increased use of the Internet in the past five years has resulted in the increased circulation of the creative photographic documentation of everyday life of children online. Blogs that document the everyday activities of newborns in minute detail are particularly interesting in this respect, but uploading photos of children on social networking sites, especially those accessible to strangers, seems far less acceptable. I will raise questions about these changing notions of privacy and child-protection online, but I will also pay attention to the positive impact of ongoing commercial innovations and technological developments on the reproduction of social life. An example is the proliferation of online services that offer people the opportunity to order a huge variety of child-related photo-objects ranging from "Half Birthday" photo-shoots for six months old babies to design kits for creating New Years cards depicting children, still circulated on mass through the post.
Comparative studies in social media photography