The Photography Blog: The ‘throw away society’ – even our photography is at risk
The UK’s first ever National Photography Month takes place this month. The basic thrust is to both improve the quality of our images and think more about what we do with them, rather than discarding or leaving them unseen on the hard drive or mobile phone.
It’s something close to my heart because time and again I meet people who are shooting (often with expensive kit) yet doing so little with their work afterwards. Since we embraced digital capture, we seem to shoot more yet do less with our photographs, which is a pity.
NPM organisers have some interesting stats on the nations photo habits; 83% of us use photos to connect with past memories, yet 65% of us do not print and keep our photos anymore. 77% no longer make photo albums and 37% have lost important images through loss of digital data. Amongst 16-24 year olds, a startling 70% have lost important images through a reliance on digital cameras that have either failed or been lost.
Ask yourself: when was the last time you printed off your favourite shots from a weekend away, made a photo album of your last family holiday or stuck a nice portrait on the mantelpiece? You get the idea…
So what to do? Well, NPM has teamed up with the London Festival of Photography and various commercial partners to offer the nation opportunities to look after their treasured photographs through various workshops, talks, family events and discounts on printing. The aim is to reenergise our thinking on how we cherish and display our photography so that it can be handed on and enjoyed by future generations.
The idea that our history, as documented through our day-to-day photography is being lost is an interesting one. Digital capture has made photography more widespread, more accessible and, basically, quicker to produce. But have we become lazy, sometimes stopping only to view our images on the little screen on the back of our cameras?
I’m as guilty as the rest. I shoot landscapes and weddings for a living and whilst every effort is made with these shots, I’m terrible for not shooting my own photography on holidays, at parties and so on.
Whilst I welcome the encouragement offered by NPM and the idea that we need to recognise that we’re losing this physical visual record I do wonder if there’s a way of combining modern technology with the old style of presentation.
The problem lies in the fact that to see our photos, we no longer have to send our film to a lab for it to be processed and printed. Therefore the first opportunity to see our shots is no longer holding a physical print in our hands; it’s a preview on the back of our cameras a split second following capture. Coupled with shooting a greater volume of images (remember those quaint 24 exposure films?) it has made us less inclined to sort through the mass of shots, edit out the dross and do something meaningful with the keepers.
And herein lies the biggest problem of digital photography in my view; as consumers, we bought into the idea of easy photography; no film, processing or printing costs. But we weren’t really told by the sales staff at the shop that instead, if we wanted to hold our images and cherish them as a framed print, we’d have to master some new computer software, probably buy a better computer and spend precious time working out which ones we wanted and which ones we didn’t. Actually, we are required to spend a little more time on our digital photography than we might have first expected.
Now, supposing if we get this post production lark down to a fine art and have a slick workflow, I still feel there are modern ways to display and share our favourite images other than a print or photo album.
Modern technology has alternatives for us; instead of the traditional photo album, a well styled digital photo album can be produced with software and displayed to a guest sat on the sofa over coffee via an ipad, for example. We used to have family slideshows; now we have large HD TV’s to display our holiday shots to the family. It’s personal preference of course, I just feel that NPM should be about getting our images ‘out there’ and on display however people prefer to do this.
Organisers though are keen to stress the enjoyment of physical prints and the safety offered by them, and they have point. Aside from data loss from failed hard drives (please back up to separate hard drives…) they say that even albums made on Facebook just get lost in a vast morass of other, scatter gun style photography. And I do agree, photo albums should be tight edits of the best pics, sequenced logically and captioned for future generations. I just feel that this process can also be achieved digitally and this would keep the idea of ‘capture keep’ both traditional and yet contemporary and appeal to everyone’s personal taste.
If you want to get involved just visit the NPM website, here.
Have your say
What do you think about the idea that we are losing an entire visual record or our lives through not printing pictures any more?
Do you see any adverse impact it will have on our children and grandchildren who wont always have access to our photos, old cameras, computers and social networking sites?
Where are your digital images stored; on your camera’s memory card or on your computer’s hard drive, on a social networking site or in a good old fashioned photo album?
Has anyone got any advice on digital photo albums used to make a final presentation of our photographs? How easy is it and is it worthwhile?
How do you share your photography these days-do you sit hunched over the screen on the back of the camera or do you show your images via alternative presentation means?
Do you think you see your digital photography images as often and in the same way as you once did with your old fashioned film prints? Does this even matter?
How do you feel about taking your images off your camera? Does the idea of downloading, editing and uploading via the internet for printing fill you with dread?
Join the debate by posting your comments below.Tagged in: National Photography Month, photography competition
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