Thanks to smartphones and apps like Instagram, we are more attuned, visually, to our world than ever before. We constantly upload pictures and videos of ourselves to our "stories" for everyone to see. And they must be interesting. Selfies, inspirational pics, beautiful landscapes, self-aggrandizing #SpotifyWrapped screenshots, mouthwatering snaps of food, pictures of what books we're reading. We're encouraged to do this, as these sites often suppress content they deem uninteresting or "vulnerable to cyberbullying."
But Uninteresting Photographs, a Twitter account, plays with the curatorial aspect of amateur photography that's personal and incidental. Culled from unedited photo dumps across the web, every hour on the hour, the account posts different pictures: rows of file cabinets in a horribly lit room, a flash photo of a boring looking table at a business conference, plywood. These pictures are remarkably unremarkable, not intended to stunt or expound on some idea, but to simply document. Photos that are otherwise completely forgettable, easily discarded, but with this account, they are given center stage.
What exactly does a person need to do to make a photo uninteresting?
Cultivate an unironic love for the mundane. This seems to be the strongest, toughest thread that unites the photos on Uninteresting Photographs. Office parks, bulky appliances, drab suburban buildings. The nature that is depicted is not florid or spectacular, but dying. Never the focus, but getting in the way of what the photographer was trying to capture.
Find the middle class. The Uninteresting Photographs feed is ripe with symbols of a middle-class existence that's slowly disappearing—strip malls, ramblers, small businesses.
Be bad. Be blurry. Be unflattering. Push your subject into blandness. But be bad without adding something to the photo or making it funnier. Try to take a pic from a strange angle against a forgettable backdrop. It's not as easy as it sounds.
Embrace your smartphone's B-roll. You know, the pic you were going to send your mom of the closet but didn't because the photo turned out all wrong.
Convey nothing. Don't communicate an idea or aesthetic. Let your goal be straightforward: this is how many hangers I have, this is what was presented at the board meeting, this is where I parked my car. Don't provide insight, only knowledge that a person at one time existed in a space to take a picture of a thing.
DESPAIR. In an interview with the Outline earlier this year, the person behind the account was found to be a freelance writer and editor based in Queens that wished to remain anonymous. He says his intent behind the Twitter account was triggered by a sense of intense despair he felt when walking into a temp job in an old office building, seeing all the furniture and desks under fluorescent lighting, the suburban-ness of his upbringing and job. "I guess I wanted to make a photography feed that inspires that same feeling," he told the online magazine. Despair. This is what it looks like to me:
Provide no answers. Only vague questions. Why was this picture even taken? I find myself asking that question whenever I scroll through the feed. I'm unable to create even the slightest of a narrative. They must be an utterly forgettable snapshot of a moment that happened in time.
I scrolled back through my photos on my iPhone, attempting to find something that transmits as little information as possible—about my tastes, interests, desires for how I'd like to be seen. Below is one of Denny Way on a sunny day that I don't remember taking. Why would I take this photo?
Uninteresting Photographs makes me ask a lot of questions: Am I missing something by documenting only the things in my life that are beautiful and interesting? Is there something I am trying to forget? Am I valuable simply because of the quality of the things I consume? Or the spaces that I am in? Am I—and the other 28,000 followers—soothed by Uninteresting Photograph's mundanity because of our existence in an attention economy that values interest, narrative, perspective? These questions, at least, are very interesting.