Friday, June 26, 2009

Disappearing Photos

When Kodak announced this week that it would stop making Kodachrome, it was another cultural signal that indicated dramatic changes permeating our lives.

How many of you remember when you were younger, your parents taking photos, getting the film developed at some shop and then everybody gathering around to look at the pictures and recalling what was happening when they were taken?

How many of you ever had the experience of coming across a photo album at your grandparents, your curiousity stoked by the pictures, anxiously asking who the people were in these books?

For many, these were personal links to our past, our memories, our history.

For myself, I took a photogrpahy course in college, but never carried on the hobby. Remembering settings for shutter speeds, lens openings, development processing and all the rest was simply something I didn't want to be bothered with. Even later on, after cameras were made that took care of all these variables themselves, I didn't start carrying a camera. It seemed that if there was more than one of us on a trip or at a big event, other people were taking photos, and sometimes people would make a copy for me.

But for many events in my lifetime, there is only my memory. There are no photos. Others will have to rely on my storytelling ability if they want to know about it.

Now we have digital cameras. People take photos and upload them directly onto their computers. The immediacy is convenient, although some people may not be aware that unless they actually do some hard copy back up that these may not last as long as a paper print.

I learned that about computers the hard way. Back when I first started using computers to write on, I was under the impression that as long as I saved my work on disk, I would always have a copy. Here I thought that one day in the future, I might perhaps do a compilation of all the articles I had written over the years. Then I popped the disks in the computer and got the message that there was something wrong and the disk could not be opened. When one computer died, I took it to a shop and tried to get the experts to retrieve files from a hard drive and they told me that they could not do it. So make back up copies.

My first cell phone didn't take pictures. It was just a phone that made calls, had voicemail and a directory. I was happy with that. Never had a problem with it. Then I moved across the country and when I went to the phone store to get my number changed they told me that if I wanted to do that I had to get a new phone, because my old phone didn't have a sim card. Of course, that was another corporate lie created to sell more phones. The phone didn't come from the factory with a phone number in. They programmed it after I bought it and I am sure that they could have programmed in a new number if they wanted to.

Anyway, all the new phones had cameras in them. I have never used it as a camera once. Maybe it is just because I like bigger type these days, but I don't really want to surf the web on a one inch screen, and I just don't go around snapping pictures of everything with my phone. It's not the device, it is my inclination. I use the phone to call people or get calls from people. I use my memory to keep pictures.

Do you also feel a shift knowing that actual had copy photos are now moving into the past? Do you feel that something has changed forever when photos will only appear on your phone or computer?

Maybe more of you will become like me, and will come to depend more on your memory than the new technology. After all, from now on you will only have a memory of going to the store to buy a new roll of film to load into your camera.

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