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We’re living in photography’s ‘golden age’, but how do we keep them safe?

Most of us are familiar with the pain of losing old photographs. The noughties were a turbulent time for computers; with desktop PCs and laptops malfunctioning after just a few years of service. (Thankfully they’re a little better now.) It was a time when digital cameras were yet to be dethroned by smart phones, but it was also the beginning of what I call the ‘disposable’ era of photography.

The disposable era of photography also began on the cusp of what most of us now agree is the golden era of photography. The two sound contradictory, but they aren’t.

You see the digital camera afforded a kind of freedom for photographers. No longer where they restricted by the film inside traditional cameras; they were also increasingly affordable, so people would buy cameras just to snap pictures on, say, a Saturday night with friends. This new ‘ease’ of photography desensitised many from the art of taking pictures.

Photography: from hobbyists to consumerists

Before the coming of the disposable era, photography was kept on a tight leash by the hobbyists and the professionals. The rise of the digital camera slowly transferred the art of photography from the niches to the mainstream. It did not take long for smart phones to then replace the digital camera. In fact, from about 2011 onwards, there has been a sort-of ‘snowballing’ effect. Today, the overwhelming majority of photographs are snapped on a smart phone. Snapped without effort, or consideration, or thought.

In 2018, about 300 million photographs were uploaded every single day. If you were to swipe through all of the selfies taken that year, it would take a staggering 424 years. These numbers are, of course, set to rise as more of the world population lifts out of poverty and adapts to a consumer lifestyle. But there’s a great paradox to this explosion in the number of photographs taken: that is, our carelessness with our memories could actually lead to a new ‘Dark Ages’.

How taking more photographs can lead to less memories

Okay, maybe ‘Dark Ages’ is a bit of a flamboyant term. But the disposable era has put everything we hold dear about taking photography in jeopardy. Not only do we no longer print our own photographs, but we no longer feel the same sense of ownership.

Only a really small, almost negligible number (0.001 percent) of all the photographs taken escape from cyberspace. That is, almost none of them are printed the good ol’ fashioned way. Memories are not cherished in photo albums. And with our failure to take care of them, we leave them vulnerable to our rapidly changing modern world; left behind on old computers and software.

To carry on with the flamboyancy, if we are to prevent this ‘Dark Ages’ then we need a new ‘Enlightenment’. We need to take back and establish ownership over our photographs and our memories. Because in the end, all we will have are our memories. This involves effort, but not really. And it can be an inventive and creative exercise. They say a photograph is worth a thousand words. In that case, they are brilliant avenues for storytelling. So why not ‘tell a story’ with wall art in the home? That way you (and your guests) can revisit the most cherished times in life over and over again.

This infographic, provided by Beaver Frames, details the really mind-boggling numbers of the golden and disposable ages of photography, how a Dark Ages can be avoided, along with a step-by-step road to photography’s new Enlightenment.


Author: Eliza Cochrane

elizacochrane92@gmail.com

Eliza is a copywriter and photographer. Her favorite thing to do at the moment is ‘storytelling’ through carefully selected photographs. In her spare time, she enjoys walking the dog, reading, and playing the guitar.

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