Has digital photography changed why we take pictures?

I was scanning some old photo albums for a client and found the above quote on the inside of an envelope from the film developer in the 1940s. Then there’s the 1960s Kodak ad “Turn Around” that communicates similar reasons for taking photos – to remember.

With billions of photos taken with digital cameras, smart phones, and tablets today, are we taking pictures to remember moments in our lives?  I will take a picture of where my car is parked, the receipt from a store, a business card and the person who gave it to me.  These are all to remember, but not for the reasons either Elbert Hubbard or Kodak were extolling.  According to Fuji Film, only about a third of photos taken are printed in some form.  People are posting them on social media, but not printing.  The lifespan of a photo on Facebook, if it is a current photo, is very short, a matter of days.  People look and move on.  It’s more to say, “Look what I’m doing now!”  Then we are off to the next thing.

The shift to digital photography has made it really easy to see the results of your photographic skills immediately, but it has also meant that more images are deleted or edited so we never see the bad and the ugly as much.  We think we have to look perfect in our pictures, and if we don’t, we either delete or touch it up.  Is that really capturing the moment and who I am right now?  Or we take so many more photos, because we can, that we miss enjoying the moment with the people who are there.

Throughout human history, story and imagery have been what transmits those important family and cultural memories.  The photograph made it possible for the common man to have what once only kings could afford – their likeness represented to pass on to future generations.

Why are you taking photos today?

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