What’s in a Picture?

Over the last week I’ve had several discussions with a variety of people on the pace of progress of technology.  It wasn’t that long ago we all bought film, carefully loaded our cameras in a dark place and, when the 24 or 36 film roll  was the norm, we would hike to the photo shop and have them developed in photo or slide format.  Now Kodak, the company whose cameras and film were the mainstay of most people’s photographic endeavors for over seventy years, is in dire financial straits.  Everything and everyone has gone digital. See Wall Street Journal article.

Then this morning there was a discussion on slide nights.  I’m sure there are still a lot of people who remember slide nights, even if it was only their parents or grandparents who hosted them.  A dark room, a white canvas or sheet, a slide projector and holiday snaps.  True, most could be quite boring unless you were in the pictures.  Now there is quite a market for having slides put on digital media.

Our photographs, no matter what media, are an important part of our history.  Memory is unreliable.  We either forget altogether or our memories are edited by old and new attitudes and beliefs – our personal schemas (See Psych article).  Or simply it’s a case of there being too much to remember all the details because it was a big occasion.   Photographs help us remember people, places and events – especially important events like births, marriages, significant birthdays and so on. 

There is now a plethora of photographic information on the social media.  Family, friends and acquaintances are able to keep everyone up-to-date on the important events.  As an example, this week friends who live over 1000kms away, posted a delightful set of snaps of their new son’s baptism/christening.  I loved seeing that important moment – it made a connection.  More and more of our lives are documented both photographically and in words online as in blogs just like this one.  We can share our lives and opinions online with as many people as we wish (although sometimes more than we would like). 

I love nothing better than to visit places and wander through museums looking for photographs of the past.  Some go back over 170 years since the daguerreotype was invented (See History of Photography).  These photos show history better than words because we can ‘see’ it.  The images stick in our minds.  We begin to imagine what life was like before we arrived on the planet.  Often we thank our lucky stars for being alive now instead of then.

So photographs, and now video, are a record of history; the history of individuals, families, places and events.  Whether you were alive or not, most people remember the space-suited Neil Armstrong talking that ‘One small step..’

Neil Armstrong

One Small Step

or the dramatic scene of the car after President Kennedy was shot.

Kennedy assassination

Car speeding away after Kennedy shot

 We remember grandparents we only saw when we were small, we see our parents when they were young, we remember those who have passed on. 

We take part in our own pre-history and we remember our own earlier history.  Things we did as kids, those embarrassing photo’s our parents kept for our 21st birthdays, our first ‘true love’, our sport victories, or our well-love or quirky pets.

Photographs, no matter what media, have become an essential part of our lives – how we connect, how we remember and how we see ourselves.

So what’s in a picture?  We are.