Well I have not had the chance to offend anyone yet today so I may as well change that. Over the past several weeks I have been trying to figure out what has been bothering me about photography and I have not been able to nail it down. There are a few things that upset me like photographers that give away their services for next to nothing, or photographers that pass off bad photography (such as out of focus or underexposed) as art. But this was not it, I could not figure it out till late last week. On Thursday I was talking to a photographer that just came back from a trip and had a chance to listen to a amazing photographer give a lecture, in talking to her I came to realize part of what it is that has me so upset. Then this past Saturday I was listening to a radio show that I love and he mentioned that a company needs to have a clear vision of what they are about if they are going to succeed, so I sat down with pen in hand and tried to figure out what my vision is, was or will be. While doing that little exercise I finally put all the pieces together, the thing that has been bothering me about photography, and many other things in our modern world, is that we have sold our soul to technology and the brevity of things like photography, writing and communication.
Years ago when I would shoot I would go and buy some film, load a camera with said film, set the ISO and head out to shoot. I would shoot several images and move on to another shoot, do some more images and so on. When I was done I would have to either develop the film myself or send away to get developed. After developing I had in my hand a set of negatives or slides and in most cases a set of paper prints. I would sort through the images weeding out the poor ones and selecting the good ones. I would either then present the images to a client or if I was shooting for myself decide what would be printed larger. Not only did all this take time, it took work and thought and patience. Sometimes it was painful waiting for the final print to arrive, worrying would it be the right color, would it be sharp, would it be cropped properly, etc. But after all was said and done I would hold in my hand a finished print, something that I could touch, something that I could frame, something that would last.
Today it is so different. I still print a lot of my images, you just have to look around my studio to see that I have a real problem with deciding on what to print, but so many people never see a properly finished print, of any size let alone an amazing wall portrait. Last week someone told me they had an amazing picture and they were going to show it to me on their camera screen but could not find it. Another person lost hundreds of images as their camera card crashed. Then this weekend it hit me – in the past we had to work to get an image and when we got an image we treasured it, printed it, framed it. Today we get an image and we admire it for a second then loose interest and move on, most times loosing the image forever, seldom ever printing it. When this happens we loose so much more, we loose the chance to learn from what we had done, we loose the chance to go back and admire the image later and most of all we loose the chance to share our images, our past, our history, our joys and yes our sorrows with others today, tomorrow and in years to come. We are loosing our history!! I get people that bring me in pictures from years gone by, old black & white prints that people have treasured for years and years. Stories like “this is my great, great grandmother” or “this is when my great, great, great grandfather came over on the boat”. I have seen amazing pictures that I could never imagine, like the first grain train ever pulled from Saskatchewan to Lethbridge, or pictures of North Korea, Tibet, China and more that even to movies have a hard time portraying – pictures that people treasure more than gold. But today we are loosing that chance. Years have been lost to the failure of a computer, or the click of a mouse. We are loosing the past and the chance to share it with others.
So lets stop the destruction of our memories, lets take some time to not only back-up images on hard drives but lets start printing images again so if a computer crashes, a hard drive fails, or you click on the wrong button you can still pull out the shoe box of prints, take the album off the shelf or look at that framed print on the wall and remember, relive and share our past with those that never had a chance to live it!