When Snapchat debuted a few years back, many were skeptical. “Oh great–another thing,” they said, probably. Quickly, though, the photo-sharing service found its niche: debauchery. Snapchat was thought to be a perfect delivery system, not of images themselves, but of what they offer: ephemerality. Whatever regrettable thing you’re doing (or, ahem, doing it to), the recipient of the accompanying image will only see it for a moment before it disappears into digital darkness, along with your courage. Although this point was not lost on Erin M. Riley, she has found a way to make such images permanent–by weaving them into fabric-portraits.
Riley’s tapestries reveal the kind of images that most people are careful not to get out into the open. They are the kinds of photos that could compromise a potential job or humiliate one’s folks if they showed up on Facebook. (Face it, your parents are on Facebook.) They are sexual selfies and images of party detritus, soaked through with alcohol and bad choices. And unlike the fleeting nature of Snapchat, these tapestries will hang around and haunt their owner for much longer.
These tapestries are clearly the result of lots of time and effort. Riley’s skillful weavings, completed on a loom, include minute details like the unit product number printed on the back of an opened condom wrapper. The results can be seen as either the manifesto of a generation proud of its exhibitionist tendencies, or a commentary on how rash decisions tend to hang around in the digital age. Ultimately, a tapestry can be easily destroyed, but as we’ve all been warned at one point or another—the Internet is forever.
Have a look through more of Riley’s work in the slides above.