The extinction of a photographic species… is this something to zoom in on?

A few consecutive events have made me think about the rejection of the traditional camera in modern society, and our latest love affairs with new slim, sexy, all-purpose smart phones.

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Firstly, on clearing up my shelves, I came across my once shinynewchristmaspresent Lumix DMC, with its faulty lens and plasters sticking the battery compartment together. The sight seemed almost comic, looking quite the epitome of an out-of-date, neglected old invalid. Why, I thought, when this camera used to be my partner everywhere I went, has it been reduced to a dust collecting ornament on my shelf?

Secondly, my love affair with my iphone5 was brought to an unsatisfying end when it was stolen on holiday. Although the handset was replaced by my insurance company, tears were shed over the thousands of lost photos (literally thousands… the technological revolution leads us to take pictures of everything, from our breakfast to our new clothes #obviously.) Although the last 30 days worth were backed up on icloud, God bless Steve Jobs, there is only so much that the apple nerds can do to save our memories, and for victims of disorganisia like me, the words ‘I should have backed it up’ will haunt you for life.

Lastly, a similar iphone stealing incident happened to a friend of a friend. His lasts words are reported to have been ‘OH MY GOD, like, there were like photos I hadn’t even INSTAGRAMED yet. You don’t understand. MY LIFE IS OVER.’

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All in all, this led me to think that maybe, whilst being caught up in the sexiness of our smart phones, we are somehow missing a trick. Firstly, whilst technology has incorporated some 13 megapixel cameras into our phones, we are still missing out on essential tools only the camera can provide. The word viewfinder is becoming redundant faster than ‘wherefore’. Similarly, manual focus and zoom can be essential to capture a high quality image. Although pressing one simple button on my iphone captures a good picture in seconds, the photo-taking experience is somehow reduced without looking through the viewfinder to frame the perfect image, adjusting the lens for a sharp focus, and choosing from the variety of photo settings such as ‘landscape’ and ‘night portrait’ to compliment my composition. Surely the smart phone result cannot even compare with a traditional photograph.

Yet don’t get me wrong, I’m no technology Scrooge. Surely if we’ve progressed from the pin-hole camera to the disposable, we can go from the digital to the all-purpose smart phone? You only have to compare photos of your grandparents, parents, and yourself to see that technology has been benefitting our photograph collections for years, so why stop here? Surely the big shots up at apple wouldn’t lead us backwards now, when they have been pushing us forward for so long. Maybe by taking our 13 megapixel smart phone everywhere with us, we in fact have more photo taking opportunities, and are thus more likely to record what we are doing, and hold on to such memories?

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Nonetheless, I only need ask if you’ve ever sat and looked through your childhood photo albums, and as a top procrastinator I can confess that this is one of my favourite time passing hobbies. I feel there are few things that compare to turning the shiny pages of a photo album, and watching your parents fall in love, become pregnant, bring you into the world, and seeing yourself grow up from baby into toddler into little person and… BAM. Then it stops. Here comes the digital revolution, where photographs are no longer printed out, but stored in their hundreds on the computer. Somehow, the pleasure of looking through old photos is reduced not only by not having the physical copy in front of you, and by the sore eyes given from looking at a computer screen for too long, but also by having to scroll through ten of the same image… I mean, it’s just so easy to press that little button, might as well take a few to get a good one, and well, a few more won’t hurt, and oooh that’s a great angle, look at that lighting… well, you get the picture (no pun intended.) One can only miss the pleasure of taking your film along to Kodak, and skipping back a few days later to collect your package of shiny prints to stick in your photo album. If anything, the smart phone and its constant access to camera roll does nothing but eliminate this little piece of happiness, by forcing us into an age where photos are not even saved in yearly files on the family computer, but kept on one’s personal handset, for one’s personal enjoyment.

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Furthermore, going back to where I started this post, on the subject of smart phone theft, I had to think about the vulnerability of the virtual photo. Thousands of memories are stored on this tiny 12x6cm tablet, and only backed up if we are organised enough to do so. The memory on our phones is so great that I no longer have the pressure of inserting my camera’s SD card into my laptop to transfer photos and make room for more, so I can simply snap away and add to my camera roll without a care in the world… (Yes, I DO need 5 different photos of the stages of cooking my pasta and tomato sauce dinner.) Of course, we do almost absentmindedly back up our photos onto various social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, but by sharing our experiences with the world, our photos become impersonal, and I had to draw the line at asking my friends to re-send my photos back to my phone from Instagram after it had been stolen. That takes #communal too far. I also feel it is sad when we are sharing photos our closest relatives have not yet seen with whoever happens to be online at the time we post them, and few people are fortunate enough to have as socialmediasavvy mothers as mine.

In conclusion, by replacing our less fashionable, rather more curvy, a little more bulky and less easy to handle real cameras with our sexy size 0 models, we are losing out on not only tradition, but the quality of our photos, and the sentiment attached to them. This seems to be an anomaly in the world of technology, where a product has reached a peak, and is now back tracking. Or, maybe the cross combining of products into a phone/camera can never hope to create something as effective as the devices could be on their own. Either way, I have nothing against you keeping your toyboy iphone for a bit on the side (for example, quick snaps on a night out), but when it comes down to it, but your traditional camera is your partner for life, so make sure it always accompanies you anywhere important.

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One thought on “The extinction of a photographic species… is this something to zoom in on?

  1. Great article! I’ve never been snap-happy but I see what you mean about photos suddenly being stored by the thousand and almost forgotten about these days. If you don’t mind constructive criticism, I didn’t like “in conclusion” at the end though. Made me think of GCSE History essays

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