Photography as play: examining constant photographing and photo sharing among young people

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This article considers on what grounds contemporary photography may be understood as play. This is done by tracing the common characteristics of play that are revealed in the constant photographing and photo sharing among young friends through the camera-based social media application Snapchat. The arguments are built by presenting qualitative data, consisting of saved snaps and interviews, together with existing theory of play. Snapping, as it emerges from the article’s data, aptly fits in with the theoretical notion of play mainly adopted from Winnicott’s Playing and Reality (2005[1971]) and Huizinga’s Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (1998 [1949]): the aim of snapping resides in itself; it is limited in terms of time and space; it is executed according to shared rules; it is fun, playful and enjoyable; and it is different from ‘ordinary life’. Further, it reinforces friendships through indices of togetherness, intimacy and trust. The article concludes with a discussion on the advantages of understanding current photography as play and the affordances that photographs provide for that play.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jul 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • photo sharing
  • photography
  • play
  • playfulness
  • Snapchat
  • snapshot photography

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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