I generally blog about more technical subject matters. My brain goes naturally to the concrete subjects and technical details and when I blog or teach, that is my default subject matter so I surprised myself as I started to write this blog post. Anyway, here goes…Are photographs a dying art form?
As we work with customers in our portrait studio business, I am beginning to truly wonder if photographs are a dying are form. I don’t mean images, I mean photographs, prints, the tactile product that results from putting an image captured by a camera onto paper, or canvas or into an album. If you Google the word “photograph” here is the definition: “a picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused onto film or other light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally.” I know Google considers a photograph to equal a digital file in this definition, but, let’s confine the definition to a physical product. Are photographs a dying art form?
Do you have an old photo album somewhere in your house? What happens when you pull it out and look through it? I have an old album that was mine from elementary school days. It has a fake straw cover and the pages fold out with little plastic compartments for the photos. This is from the days of the little Kodak cameras that used the cartridge film (called 126 Cartridges). Most of the photos I have are in black and white, because the film was cheaper to buy and get developed. When I pull out that album and look through it, I’m immediately transported back to the 1970’s, to San Diego and the neighborhood where we lived.
There is just something about looking through the album, touching the pages and moving to the next page that is special about this. I have other albums too. My wife is good about taking photos from a trip or event and making them into a book – the modern day equivalent of the old-fashioned photo album.
Are Photographs a Dying Art Form?
When we work with customers now one of the first questions we get is “can I have the digital files.” Despite what we think is best, yes, we will sell the digital files but I think we are a little sad when we do. We have become a culture of “now,” but at the loss of history. We take photographs and them post them to a wall or share them in a text message or Instagram and then we forget about them. This same impulse is evident now when people sit for a portrait session. They want the digital files to share electronically but all too often they never do get around to printing them.
The sad part is that in almost all cases, we know that those images will be lost to time when a hard drive crashes, or are just forgotten about. Be honest, do you really think you will look at digital images 10 years from now? Will most people even be able to find them buried on an old computer. We also can’t pass down digital files the same way we do photographs. I have photos from my dad’s family that are over 80 years old that I treasure. These are pieces of history that would be lost. I know people will argue that you can back up the images, copy them, send them to family easier, sore them forever on a cloud, but truly think we are losing something special.
So, are photographs a dying art form? I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I think I am going to ponder that while I go pull out an old photo album and look through the past for a bit.