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.
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.
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?
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?