Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Evolution of the Snapshot

There’s a cautionary story I’ve heard a few times over the last several years. Set many years in the future a family is rummaging through some old things in an attic. The children pick up a disc in a case and ask their mom what it is? She says oh, that’s your great grandparent’s wedding photos. When they ask to see them she tells them they can’t because it’s an old format we don’t use anymore.

It’s the sort of thing those of us who “grew up” on film have wondered about from time to time. Although anymore it really seems obvious that you just keep track of the photo files you care about and make sure they’re organized and updated, some people think the answer is to print hard copies of all your photos. I think that response comes simply from a nostalgic place where people miss seeing prints of all their shots.

At first glance, it had seemed like digital cameras were causing people to care less about their photos. You see people deleting photos off their camera because the card just got full. When they do upload them to a computer they forget where they put them. A hard drive crashes & everything’s gone. When I stop to think about it though, I realize that people don’t take worse care of their photos than they did before. I’m reminded of the sight of my aunt’s junk drawer full of undeveloped rolls of film. Years old. At a friend’s house finding photos stuck to each other because they’ve just been hanging out on a dresser amongst soda cans and other who knows what. Holes poked in them and the edges curled up on a bulletin board. Some people have never taken care of them. It just wasn’t so in my face.

That I think is the main evolution of the snapshot. Before, we took those pictures for ourselves. The main idea is to get a stack of prints and put them away in the photo album, which is put away on a bookshelf or in a closet. Sometimes you get it out and look at it & even less often is there an occasion to show someone else. Now we take pictures to post online for everyone to see. People seem much more interested than they ever were looking at your photo albums. We take more pictures and we share more pictures. That’s a good thing. It may be harder for me to make a living off it (which is a whole other topic) but I really do like how when I look at it from this other perspective it seems that people care more about their photos now, really.

That being said, I still print snapshots, write on the back and put them away in my photo albums. There’s just something about pulling a book off the shelf and flipping through the pages of your life.

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