Why we take photos….

Why do we take photos?  Its a question a good many of us most likely have never truly stopped to consider. Sure theres the usual reasons, travel snaps, weddings, Aunt Muriel’s eclectic collection of porcelain etc… These are some of the reasons we take photos, and thats just it, they are reasons for doing so. But what really drives us to spend large amounts of time, effort and money on doing so?

A late 1970’s 35mm film camera.

To me it seems thats its about ensuring we have a physical memento and connection  to our past. A way of ensuring accuracy of past events when our memories maybe clouded by time. We tend to associate events, places and people with periods within our lives far more readily if we have a set of cues to work from. In this regard the visual reminders of what has been before is a very powerful way of invoking memories of time past, often things we had inadvertently forgotten.

I find as I age that my memories become coloured somewhat by what I think I recall accurately. Fortunately to date this remains fairly accurate, but we often remember things differently to those around us because we each have a different point of view even when we are all in close proximity, as with family events. Its amazing the things we find out somewhere later in life and its good to have a visual reference or key to these periods of time.

In earlier centuries the best method for recording family events especially, and the more fundamental parts of life was through the skills of the painters and artists over the centuries. Most of us a aware of the more famous painters over the past few centuries, but even the lesser  known artists helped to shape a visual record of life in these periods of time. It has been within mankind since the earliest cave drawings to have pictorial records of our lives.

I was reminded of this today when my sister posted some photos from her younger years, and while I have photos of us as children up to early teens, I have no record of my sister from the age about 12/13 years of age through to her late twenties and early thirties, so for me these images help fill in those years when I was living away from the family. They are important to me in that they help to continue my family’s story through life.

One of my first digital cameras. Circa 2007

So where does my photography and the taking of images come into this. I was given a Diana camera for a present in the late 1960’s and a roll or two of film. I was hooked, both on the technology firstly as the process was fascinating to me and then moreso on the subject matter I could record with this camera. During my college years I progressed to working in the school darkroom and processing both  my photos  and photos for others at the school. This was noticed by the careers councillor at the school who arranged my very first full time job with a local photography and portraiture studio. The rest is history.

Fast forward to today and we see a massive uptake of image recording methods. Is this photography in its truest sense. I dont think so. The massive sharing of images in social media is more a way for us to communicate our thoughts and ideas, with a large dash of the “Look At Me I’m Special” thrown in. Its a new medium for us to communicate our view point to the world and a much larger audience. Its true even of this blog as it contains a good deal of my own thoughts on the subject of photography.

What this mass media approach is not doing is necessarily recording events that will be kept in perpetuity.  Take Instagram for example, I post an image and a short comment  and its viewed for a short time by any number of people and then its essentially gone. If I do a search I can find it again, however there will come a point when the providers servers reach saturation point and the old history will be quietly pruned or as in some cases hacked and destroyed and be gone for good.

While the media platform providers will keep your images and posts for a while try going back 10 years or so on Facebook and see how much history you find. I joined Facebook in 2006 but I can find no record of images prior to 2012 that I know I have posted as I have them stored in Google Photos. So what happened to those images? Any number of things may have happened to those images and it serves as a reminder than not everything online is necessarily going to be there a decade or more later and thats why its important to print your images and have a physical copy of them, even if you rarely break out the album they are stored in. Its also important to record the images onto a variety of storage devices, and be prepared to move them to different devices as technology changes.

With all the above in mind why do we take photos?  Simply put, to remember our past in a visual form, as this is the form that with care has the longevity few other methods provide in an easily accessible way.

Print those images folks, and as always Happy Snappin’

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