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The century where the digital world was introduced and consequently molded by social interactions via the internet. Photography, today, has been given a new meaning as it became one of the most – and a much more – accessible tool for the new generation. To understand how we got to the Instagram era, here is a timeline of how the 21st century was perceived by photos.

History Being Told

The transformation from analog to digital photography was solidified in 2001, and, with that, editing programs like Adobe Photoshop started to appear and give a new meaning to what photos represented. With these revolutions, we start seeing the most documented century of humanity unfold. In the attacks on September 11 of 2001, for example, we see a historical tragedy, for the first time, through many lenses.

Behind The Revolution

We also start seeing the evolution of technology built by humans, like the beginning of the popularization of Apple Inc. products. Steve Jobs introduces, in 2001, the first iPod:

Political Portrays

Photos also began playing big roles in political campaigns and building a credible reputation for the leaders of big nations. The first black president of the United States, Barack Obama, led the country for 8 years and made his mark with his kind nature – documented thoroughly by images.

Media Footprint

Unfortunately, this generation is also having to deal with ecological problems caused by humans in the past, which are affecting more our lives as the years go by. The oceans, forests, temperatures and natural disasters are increasing because of climate change and negligence from big nations around the globe.

Pictures of 2020’s Australian fires, for instance, sensibilized people across nations, documenting the possible destructive side of and on nature.

The Social Media Impact

The 2007 launch of the iPhone brought a popularization of smart devices that could be used not just for calling, but also for socializing on the internet. The most famous guy in the social media world, Mark Zuckerberg, launched Facebook, the most famous and used platform to this day, on the Harvard campus in 2004:

Amplifying Faces

Currently, social apps are the most powerful source of photography, relying on a range of users. From celebrities to “instafamous people”, activists, and even politicians – practically all share their lives through pictures on platforms such as Instagram.

Changing Meanings

Anyone can take pictures and capitalize on them or on the information that they provide. Followers, in such context, equal money, so millennials seem to be in a race of who gets the most interaction and attention in a society where numbers matter more than content.

In a way, the fast spread of accessible photography is a win for the 21st century, as it has led us to be able to document so many substantial moments in human history (that even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to fit them all in this article). However, another side shows how we have lost touch with the meaning of producing media and started to be led by the mentality of producing only what is profitable, leaving behind the true colors of a photograph.


The article above was edited by Isabella Gemignani.

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