MPPS – The Mobile Phone Photo Show

The Mobile Phone Photo Show (MPPS) was a participatory project which allowed anyone, anywhere in the world, to contribute snapshots of their lives. The catch: all imagery was taken with and submitted from mobile phones, thus lending the photographs a rough, fresh, un-precious immediacy. The exhibition took place in 2004, during the early days of camera-enabled cellphones. The project was a collaboration with photographer Gregory Cowley, and Rx Gallery.

MPPS was exhibited in Rx Gallery in San Francisco, at the time a vibrant underground art/technology venue. In May 2004, 457 participants from 41 countries sent to the gallery more than 2500 photos during the course of a month. The images were exhibited in three ways: projected on a set of screens, displayed randomly on a bank of flatscreen monitors, and added to a massive mural wall, which gradually filled the entire length of the gallery. The emphasis was on immediacy (the database automatically delivered new images as soon as they were submitted), a de-emphasis on the cult of the artist (anyone could register, anyone could submit), and an exploration of a new type of art project, one composed of multiple small contributions from a large population of contributors.

We considered the project a ‘metasnapshot’: that is, a snapshot with multiple authors. We were particularly interested in the notion of a user-generated art project – as creators, our role was to provide the framework and to allow for a massive, worldwide collaboration with participants we had never, nor would ever meet. We were also particularly interested in giving normal people, ‘non-artists’, the opportunity to contribute to the project.
The project was the first exhibition of mobile phone photography in the US, and received a good amount of press, including an article in Communication Arts as well as heavy coverage in the blogosphere.

Exhibition History:
Rx Gallery, San Francisco, California, May 05-June 18th, 2004

Carstensen, Jeanne “Cellph Portrait / Mobile Phone Photography Show at RX Gallery”, SF Gate, May 28, 2004

Richmond, Wendy, “Design Culture: Meant to be Sent”, Communication Arts, Photography Annual, Aug 2004

Genresphotography, installation, projection, participatory, socialYear2004