I was reading a blog about the non-noticeable difference between the output of today's digital cameras & yesterday's film cameras. A photographer had taken photos from the past 30 years of one location, and compiled them into a book for a publisher. The output difference between the film & digital are really no different. The one thing digital has brought is a form of convenience in taking photos.
This got me to thinking about old photographs and what they mean to us, as well as the plethora of digital images versus printed photographs.
Photos are what help us connect to the past and see the future we had before us. Photos help us relive who we were and the moments we had at that same exact time. Our memories might fade, but photos can last for a long time capturing a single moment in all of eternity. I have older photos of my grandparents, and I see their younger selves (probably in their 20s, newly married) and the future that was ahead of them. Sometimes, I go over my old photos, and remember past outings, conventions, trips, dinners, etc, and recall what I had forgotten.
Anytime there is a natural disaster, people grab their photos first or later bemoan not being able to take their photos. For the most part, I have almost all of my personal photographs in only a few binders and a photobox that are easily grab-able in case of emergencies. Growing up, my family had dozens of photo albums with photos celebrating various events. I remember sitting as a chid, and looking through them on a regular basis.
Since cameras became widely commercially available, many have carried cameras. But, film was expensive, and most people always shot images that had people or events to be remembered. On a trip, 1-2 people might have a camera. Nowadays, technology made cameras cheaper -- by making cheaper version, disposable cameras, and, now, digital cameras.
Nowadays, you'd be hard-pressed to find something *without* a digital camera in their pocket/purse either as a dedicated camera or as part of their phone. But, I suspect that most people keep their photos on their computer, without ever bothering to print them or put them on a digital frame. Or they put them up on public websites (FB, flickr, etc...) for others to enjoy.
I think the people who actually "print" photos will dwindle considerably over the next few years....even with the plethora of available home photo printers. (I've known many a person who bought a digital printer, printed only a few images, and now it sits in the corner, for the time they might decide they want to print something, which seems unlikely the less they use it.)
I wonder if the inundation of photos will mean the same thing to the people who take them more frequently now than ever? (You can't go anywhere without someone having a digital point-and-shoot available.)
What happens when photos are simply a commodity to be taken, put away, then forgotten?
Will they hold the same meaning 10 years from now when you've taken 20 shots of the same exact situation within a 3 minute span? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
What happens when you have Gigs and Gigs of photos that never see the light of day?
What happens when you're in a disaster? Do you grab your photo albums / hard-drives? Or will you forget that your precious photos are there?
Oh, I understand that online sites are easier to keep & view your photos; and I do rather enjoy being able to see different portfolios and albums. The online method can often be a foolproof way to keep photos safe from a natural disaster (although loss of data is another question entirely.) And that data storage is often cheaper and easier to accomodate than actual physical objects (i.e. a photo album). There are definitely pros and cons to either situation.
But, for me, there's something tangible about the printed photo that's a lot more satisfying than seeing something on screen. Its like holding a good book and turning a page (although I know that a Kindle can be more "convenient"). It's the sight, sound, and smell of paper and emulsion that somehow appeals to me. Or maybe I'm just a luddite at heart?
And yes, I do still print out a lot of photos. And, yes, I do keep them also online :-)