We are living in photography’s ‘golden age’ – but are
our memories safe?
“Easy come, easy go”. It’s an old idiom, but pretty self-explanatory. It means that something achieved easily can also be lost just as easily.
Today, it has never been easier to take a photograph. We are all photographers - and yes, that includes your Mom, even if she always positions a finger over the lens.
At the same time, it has never been easier to buy a camera phone. Even if you don’t have the money, most contracts require only a small fee upfront – or even nothing – to get started.
The world has changed remarkably over the past thirty years.
It has gotten richer. The wheels of progress have marched on. Billions of people were born. Technology has improved and absolute poverty has halved.
That means more money, more smart phones, and more photographs.
Enter the photo-population explosion.
Before the rise of the Internet and the dominance of the camera phone, photography was the domain of the professionals and keen hobbyists. Photographs would be taken with more thought, to accommodate space- limitations with the film. And the very act of having to develop them helped to instill a real sense of
This kind of attachment still exists among professionals and hobbyists today, but this connection is lost on most ‘amateur’ photographers – sometimes, admittedly, myself included.
The number of photographs the world takes on a daily basis is astronomical, and almost all of them are on mobile phones.
Given the literal trillions of photographs we take every year, it is easy to think we are in photography’s ‘golden age’.
Indeed we are. But because many of our photographs are taken with barely a
thought, the mentality is that they become disposable. This does not mean we don’t wish to keep them, or cherish them, it means we barely give them an afterthought.
If you are old enough to remember the 90s, remember what it was like to develop a photograph you truly cherished?
The next step would be to buy a frame and display it proudly, make copies, and give the copies to relatives.
Then in the late 00s, a photograph’s rite of passage was to create a special folder on the computer or album on social media. But social media platforms rise and fall in popularity. Pretty much every millennial has old photographs they’ve lost forever; into the black holes of cyberspace.
A new ‘dark ages’ or ‘Enlightenment’?
Things look to be even worse with the so-called ‘Instagram generation’. The pressure to make everything look as inspirational as possible has brought about a new age of stunning photography, yes, but it is also
An entire holiday might be contracted into five or six Instagram posts to impress others –everything else is forgotten.
The disposable-photography culture today has worried more than just my paranoid brain.
Even Google has warned about the danger of failing to preserve our cherished memories.
Fortunately, the problem can be fixed. Most people will (rightfully) balk at the thought of printing off and developing the thousands of personal photographs taken personally every year.
So don’t print everything off.
A by-product of the disposable-generation is we take a lot of rubbish, too. (But that being said, printing photographs online is insanely cheap, even for lots of them.)
For the danger of sounding like a hypocrite, I would recommend a bit of Instagram-style pruning. We take so many photographs that it is possible to still retain the ‘story’ of each of the memories we take this way, and to hold them safe and dear to us.
To avoid the possibility of a ‘dark ages’, where we suddenly realize we have nothing to show our grandchildren other than a vegan breakfast in perfect lighting or a sun set with filters, we need to preserve our memories.
And preserving our memories means to print, frame, and bring back the closeness and connection that we had with what we used to consciously call ‘art’.
Eliza is a copywriter and photographer for Beaverframes. Her favorite thing to do right now is ‘storytelling’ using carefully selected photographs and well-positioned frames in her home. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, reading, and playing the guitar.