Photographer reveals what makes a good pictures in a virtual world


Courtesy image from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Paula Rodenas, Staff Writer

Trends in Popular Photography, an online Zoom event hosted by photographer Kim Beil and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, was held Monday.

Beil is an art historian and teacher at Stanford University, and the associate director of a program called ITALIC, which is designed for first year students studying the history and theory of art.

“While I was at Brooks studying visual journalism,” said Beil,  “I realized I was pretty conflicted about the ethics of taking pictures of people in challenging situations.” 

She studied the practice of photography and fell in love with creating images and working in the dark room, said Beil, which led to her pursuing a career in the medium.

Beil started the forum by talking about her new book, Good Pictures: A History of Popular Photography, in which she writes about different photography styles and the history of American photography. 

Beil is very invested in social media and says she uses Instagram as a source for research.

Beil shared a slideshow displaying different photography trends and rules. She discussed various picture examples that represented different elements of photography.

Beil explored the topic of new technology relating it to photography during a Q&A session at the end of the forum.

“I’ve been noticing  a fast shift since the beginning of the pandemic and the rise of Zoom,” said Beil.

She later showed a variety of photographs sent in by members of the audience. Most of the pictures were taken in the 1900s. Examples featured family pictures, portraits, and childhood memories.

During the event Beil allowed those who submitted pictures to describe the stories behind their photos, from subject to composition. 

One audience member asked how smartphones have changed the dynamics of photographs.

Beil said she wants to research topics like stickers and animations, like emojis.

Beil ended up talking about her next book, in which she will focus autobiographies of different photographers who deserve more image and audience.