Pondering The Significance Behind a Photo Today

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Instant film cameras 2015 (1 of 8)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Today, in 2016, million of images are taken each day and uploaded to the web. If millions are being taken, then let’s also consider how many just aren’t being uploaded. To that end, it’s quite valid to say that to most folks, photo aren’t really a crazy special thing. But you see, photography didn’t begin that way.

In fact, there’s a stark contrast between the photographic process today vs years ago.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Leica Q camera sample images (59 of 62)ISO 32001-30 sec at f - 1.7

A long, long time ago folks found a way to project an inverted image of a scene onto a surface. However, it took much trial and error plus time to be able to actually record the scene onto a photosensitive surface. At the start, everything needed to be stagnant and took a long time to expose the image. Then with 35mm film’s development, it became easier for folks to actually capture everyday life. Digital came along and ultimately the mobile phone became more than good enough for folks.

Now let’s plot that out:

  • Photography’s beginning: lots of work to take one image makes people very much involved in the idea of getting a single image right. Photography is really done by chemists and artists.
  • Large format: photography moves from mostly being lots of wet plate and glass to instead moving to a film. Art starts to take more of a fore here.
  • 35mm film: Kodak and Leica help to change photography with 35mm film and making it possible for people to capture every day life.
  • Digital: By this time, photography had advanced quite a bit with automatic metering and so photography became even easier for folks. Mix this in with the dawn of the internet and spreading images became even easier to do.
  • Mobile: You’ve got a camera with all the previous technology enhancements and the internet all in your pocket.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Leica Q camera sample images (28 of 62)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 1.7

Years ago, folks used to give really big emphasis on getting a single image as perfect as possible. These days, folks just shoot until their storage is full. It’s rare to see someone actually delete a photograph, and instead people just choose to forget about them.

Forget about them? Years ago, again, people never did that! They used to carefully archive their negatives in contact sheets and put everything in leather bound albums for everyone to see later on in life. In contrast to these days, people shoot photos, put them on Facebook, and forget about them. They stay in albums like “Mobile Uploads” and because of the immediacy of social media, they become forgotten.

So what’s the point of all this?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A photograph is at its purest form a moment captured in time that is meant to last for a very long time. But with today’s uses and norms, how many people can still honestly say that they have access to images from 10 years ago? Do you have them on specifically labelled hard drives or in clearly labelled albums? Do you know where to go to find them immediately?

Let’s be honest, no one cares enough and most people are too lazy to keep any of this in mind.

So does that mean that those photos aren’t important to people? If someone takes literally 300 photos before they post a single good one, to what degree do they really care about the ones that they didn’t post? I’ve had friends take my phone or cameras and take loads of selfies with them. But to them, it’s more about the actual process. The images? If they shoot a good one, they’ll post it. Otherwise, they probably won’t. But that image will stay on their phone in obscurity with no real place to go.

This didn’t only happen with the rise of phones though. People did it with 35mm film and when autoexposure metering and focusing came about. The same ideas applied back then: you shoot a roll of 35mm film and you take only the very best to showcase and print out really large. My parents did it, my aunts and uncles did it, and yours probably did too.

As a society, we’ve become a people who care a lot about photography, but care much less about overall photos. Instead, we care about trying to get one specific image by making mistake after mistake. To that end, what is the significance behind those other images that never make it? Do we care about them? Or do they just disappear in obscurity?

  • Andrew
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2439170452

    As with so many other topics I see about photography, it’s correct until it’s not. Some people still do put the care into every shot, can tell you where every one is and can get access at a moments notice. The people who take hundreds, or thousands, of pictures and post one and forget the rest… well… they weren’t using film cameras. To a greater or lesser degree everything changed in photography, but much stayed the same. Everyone can capture an image, but few make them great. And those few take the time to catalog (or tag) each and every one, delete the ones that don’t make the cut, and organize them thoroughly. And when you look at all the “photographers” out there, you can tell very quickly which ones “set things up” or “waited for the right moment” or “took time until everything was just right.” Yes, everyone has a camera in their hands these days, and the majority one to capture a moment by just pointing and clicking, and they love it. Nothing wrong with that. Doesn’t take anything away from those of us who care to stop, look around, and try to capture something meaningful or beautiful or just record the moment with care.

  • quacknduck
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2436595116

    I am over 70 now but when I learned photography in 1960s an older man let me use his dark room and he would wander down sometimes and critique my work. One interesting time he talked about photography when he was young and on factory interior shots how they would set the camera up, take the lens cap off and go out to lunch. I have a 21″ x 15″ photograph on my wall with about 30 people, all dressed up in Sunday best, and my grandmother in the front row was four years old. I think this was from the time when kids used to run around to the other side and get in the image twice.

  • Darkslide
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2435638732

    Your FB title “Years ago, photographers used to put lots of thought into the creation of one image before the shutter was clicked. We don’t do that today.” says it all, for me at least – this is the reason there are zillions of rubbish photographs displayed EVERYWHERE today. If people did actually consider what they were doing, rather than just blindly shooting everything in sight, perhaps we’d have more interesting images to ponder over. I’m sorry, but RIRO (Rubbish in, rubbish out) – if people took just a little more time over considering what was infant of them…

  • Gail Lipe
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2435566449

    As a former photo journalist, photos mean something different to me than a lot of people. As you said “A photograph is at its purest form a moment captured in time that is meant to last for a very long time.” To me, photography is recording history as it happens, whether it is community or personal or family. If you really look at how photography has changed, we as a society are loosing a whole generation of family history. So we post the photos on social media, and we store them on the cloud. Where are the family photos that you share with your grandparents? I was recently going through hard copies of photos from my mother’s life and I learned a lot about her, my grandparents and their families. Where are the future generations going to find their family photos? If all the photos are taken in a phone, what happens when the 3-year-old drops the phone in the toilet, or the phone gets dropped and run over by a car? All the photos taken are gone. If we want to leave photos for future generations to learn about now, we have to be careful how we handle them.