Digital Projects

21,900,000,000 and counting – a social media camera obscura

Collaboration between Giles Duley, Simon Pride and Martin Coyne

Did you know that 21.9 billion images are uploaded to Instagram every year – affording snapshots into the lives of 300 million users? An exciting installation was created to display a selection of these images, in real time, as they were uploaded to Instagram, projecting them on to a view of the earth from space.

The installation was a collaboration between Simon Pride of Arts University Bournemouth, Giles Duley, Humanitarian War Photographer and Martin Coyne of Bond & Coyne, to provide a parallel commentary on Duley’s ‘One Second of Light’ exhibition.

Duley referred to the exhibition as “a collection of photographs that let us glimpse the lives of others” which offered the starting point for the installation.

Using the orientation of the International Space Station, which orbits the earth every 90 minutes, a 5km search grid captured and displayed posts against their global location in real time as they were uploaded.

The 21st century is the most photographed century yet. Smart phones enable us all to become documentarians of the world around us and curators of our own lives through social media.

In a world that is super saturated with images, this digital installation responds to the struggle of photographers to create images that illuminate our lives.

We all observe. But do we see?

The development of photography and the camera can be linked back to the camera obscura; Latin for ‘dark room’. But whereas a camera captures a single image, this installation enables us to gain insights from the lenses of users across the globe.

You can take a look at the recording of the obscura installation here.

Simon Pride said: “From the outset, co-collaborator Martin Coyne and I decided that we could not compete with Giles’ work. Instead we needed to find an idea that responded to Giles’ photography and provided a parallel commentary. Giles’ images are so empathetic, so strong, that as a viewer, we are compelled to consider our common humanity. As Giles says, they are ‘stories of a shared humanity’. The social media camera obscura offers a fleeting insight into the lives of others and displays them against the earth that we all share.”