PhotographerAustin S. Lin
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

Digital mobile-device screen captures of photographs resulting from search engine results.


Current build-up of technology has enabled individuals in society to become more and more connected, with the demand for information increasing proportionally. The constraint now encountered is not the quantity of available information, but the devices by which that information is readily accessed. Mobile device photography has sufficiently progressed that photography-as-documentary is itself being redefined. Instead of one single image at a particular point in time, mobile photography is crowd-sourced and now captures all images at all times. “Loaded: Cities” examines the screen captures of images—essentially photographs of photographs—obtained of global cities returned in the form of mobile search engine results. As each screen loads relative to the speed of the wireless connection at the time of the query, grey blocks appear as placeholders for information that is available, but not yet accessible. Brick by brick, each set of photographs is eventually constructed. Viewing photography is no longer that which is immediately in front of the viewer's eyes, but that which gradually appears over the span of seconds or minutes. Technology itself is allowed to curate what is revealed to the viewer, serving as an enabler but also as a simultaneous constraint; it dictates not only what we can view, but how soon we can view it. Viewers are supplied a multitude of online images by the search engine, which may average out into an anticipated overall result, but the ideal image held in the viewer’s anticipations never emerges. Viewers receive instead the images that suggest what possible outcomes of that ideal could be. We search and search until our preconceptions can be met and we know we have arrived once the algorithms of search engines tell us that we are there. Photographic images become an accepted fatalistic destination: the places we are allowed to arrive at are not the places we first sought to find.