"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." -Maya Angelou, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

Death to Photographs!

One subject my mother and I disagree on is the future of print photography — specifically, “real” photos. She, like most members of our parents’ generation, have hundreds (if not thousands) of photos; a few of them reside in albums, sorted chronologically, while the vast majority of them can be found in plastic tubs and cardboard boxes, stacked on top of one another in her closet.

I, on the other hand, have very few “real” photographs left. I got my first digital camera exactly ten years ago; as such, every picture I’ve taken in the past decade has been digital. Every “real” photo my wife and I own that was taken before that point (our wedding photos, for example) has been scanned in and archived on our computer. The few photographs we hang on to are packed away, and the only real photos we get anymore are the ones our kids have taken at school. A few months ago I even borrowed one of my mom’s picture tubs, scanning in the ones I wanted copies of.

In my opinion, digital photos have many advantages over so-called “real” ones. For example, all my pictures are archived. I have them all stored on my home computer, archived on another computer, and have a DVD copy stored at work. They’ll never fade and they’ll never get ruined. Another advantage is the ability to search through thousands of photos and find the exact one I’m looking for in less than a second — that is, assuming I’ve named it correctly. Programs such as Google’s Picasa (which is 100% free) help me organize my photos and add captions. A third advantage to digital photos is the ability to improve them. I’m not talking anything as drastic as adding or removing people from pictures, but being able to remove red eye (again, something Picasa does quickly and easily) is really nice.

In the future, people will not be sitting around their coffee tables, digging through boxes of photos trying to find one. They’ll watch their family album on their television. That’s what we do. My DVD player, a $29 cheapie from Wal-Mart, displays JPG files with ease. The new television I have my eye on has an SD slot (the same format that my digital camera uses) right on the front of it. Assuming I buy it, I’ll be able to take pictures, remove the memory card, insert it directly into the television and view the results.

There are many electronic items that I do not thing are better than their physical counterparts. I do not think MP3s are better than CDs, for example. More convenient perhaps, but not better. But as far as photographs are concerned, I get absolutely nothing from the physical experience of holding a piece of paper. For me, looking at a digital representation of said photo on a computer/television screen is good enough for me. I’m sure my mom and lots of people will disagree with me, but that’s okay.

For Christmas this year, Dad bought me a PhotoShare. It’s one of those LCD picture screens, designed to sit on your desk or hang on your wall and display a rotating series of pictures, kind of like PowerPoint. I’ve had the unit set up on my desk for the past month, but today I decided to mount it at eye level just outside my cubical. It too uses SD cards — I have a 512 meg card in it right now with somewhere around 500 pictures on it — so putting new pictures on (and removing old ones off) the device is a piece of cake. The whole thing is so … me.

So, if you happen to ask me for a recent picture of my kids, don’t be surprised if you get one via e-mail.

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1 comment to Death to Photographs!

  • Pat Loisel

    OK, normally I wait til I have some spare time to respond to Rob’s blogs (doesn’t that flow off the tongue nicely!), but this one really pushed my buttons (not the EASY one Rob has mounted outside his cubicle, either!). I too have one of the digital photo frames. I’ve got to tell you I love it! I use my 1-gig flash drive or my memory card from the digital camera, and I just keep my favorite photos flowing all day. It has my co-workers fascinated and envious, and I get people coming from the other buildings to see it and ooh and ahh over it. BUT, I wouldn’t trade my tubs of pictures for the world. I can’t tell you the hours I’ve spent sitting around with family shuffling through those old pictures. Each one brings back such memories. I loved seeing Rob’s rotating pictures on the TV at the last family gathering, but by the time I said “Look at that!”, it was gone. You still see the pictures, but the opportunity for discussion and reminiscing is gone. So I guess all in all, I’m old but not that old. I love the digital everything. I love the archiving of photos that could be gone otherwise. I love the ease of sharing in a moment via e-mail and with lots of folks who otherwise might not get a copy of pictures of my beautiful grandbabies and my Grand Canyon vacation shots (just as much as they love deleting them without having to look through all of them!) But I wouldn’t take anything in the world for those tubs in my closet! Rob’s Mom