Photos - Ubiquitous, Worthless?

“People wonder why their daughter is taking 10,000 photos a day. What they don’t realize is that she isn’t preserving images. She’s talking.” - Evan Spiegel, CEO Snap

Snapchat fundamentally changed the way we think about what a camera is. This is perhaps the natural conclusion of the spread in accessibly and volume of images in the last hundred years. First were the formal portraits you sat for once that your family framed and kept on the mantle that your grandparents still have today. Equipment was expensive and you didn’t even take the photo yourself.

Next came the handheld film cameras that our grandparents took pictures with on vacation and diligently scrapbooked away. You took and could develop these yourself (if you were adventurous like my mother), but aside from the Polaroid and similar cameras, there was a disconnect between capture and viewing. Of course, film was a thing too and each photo taken had a non-negligible cost.

Digital cameras are perhaps the final step. Photos are free and (though my iPhone loves to tell me its storage is full) [2] effectively limitless in volume. Review is instant and we now take photos to send to one person who can view it once before it disappears forever (to us at least, Snap and others probably do some sketchy stuff with our data).

I have about 10,000 [3] photos on my computer chronicling my travels and experiences over the last eight or nine years depending on how generous I’m being with my younger self. I’m fairly obsessive cataloging them with albums for “Fishing 5/12/2018” - eight photos, “Donut Day 6/4/2015” - one photo, and more recently “Skiing at Peter’s 1/4/2018” - six photos. There’s even “Pretty Planes Pictures” which has 500 [4] or so images I’ve taken of and from planes (sunsets are a favorite) [5].

I don’t look at these though. I might occasionally show someone a picture of a mountain I climbed, a friend that I have, or my dog which I miss, but I don’t interact with my this library on even a monthly basis sometimes aside from editing new photos and casting them into designated albums

If these photos were to disappear however, I would be enormously sad and literally feel like a part of me had died. With a Snapchat “score” of nearly 90,000 [6] amassed over the last five years though, that very thing has happened ~nine times. Those photos weren’t all worth keeping for sure, but some probably were. While I might have been “talking” as Spiegel puts it, I can never refer back to those conversations I had like I can with a text, Facebook Message, or email. Of course, most people generate far more content speaking to one another then they do through asynchronous channels and none of that is captured so maybe it’s okay. I probably wouldn’t look at those 90,000 photos anyway.

Related Reading:

The ubiquity of really high-quality smartphone cameras has really depressed the market for stock and travel photos for magazines. I’m glad my mother didn’t end up being a travel photojournalist… (though hard times may be coming for teachers too).

A nice timeline of the progression of photography

When I cross posted this on my Medium on 06/28/19 I added some reflection:

[1] I’m glad this blog gives them a purpose!

[2] After I lost my phone I bought a phone with more storage and somehow that’s filled up now too smh

[3] A year on it’s a little less than 15,000 photos.

[4] Now 851!

[5] Raindrops too! See image ^^

[6] I crossed the 100k mark the other week!

[7] #lambdaschool?

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