This morning I opened my Twitter and saw a hashtag that clearly needed to be included in this article. It was #phontography. I know I’ve seen it before, but today it seemed pertinent to a conversation I was having with some friends.
Phontography is the majority of photography right now. People just indiscriminately clicking photos with their communication device. Although limited you can even edit a photo to some extent on your phone. Then with a tap of your finger you upload it to a social media sight for permanent record.
I know some readers are already pushing back against the indiscriminate part of the last paragraph. By no means am I implying that your phontography is bad in any way. I’m sure you take time to line up the shot and get it right. What I mean is that, if you had to buy film for your phone, you’d be lining up a lot less shots. Every picture wouldn’t be worth taking.
In many conversations with friends about the importance of photos I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. There are sentimental photo album people and there are people that use photos for instant gratification. I’m sure there are subsets in between, but you have to look pretty hard to find them. The photo album people generally treat them like the time capsules they are. They are either kept safe and put away, or stored on a shelf that looks like it shouldn’t be touched.
The instant gratification people, love to look at the photo albums. The only people they know in the pictures are a couple of generations apart from them. They can look at a photo and have it emit smells or feelings for people or places. They don’t really care to stray too far from what their memories hold. They want to look at the pictures in the moment, but they really don’t want to be the ones responsible for preserving them.
Most of us that use social media these days use pictures as a communication tool as well. A picture can easily show your friends what you are up to or where you are at the moment. It can also portray a mood if done correctly. Our pictures are then on display for people to pick through… I remember being 16 and having a boyfriend over to our house. The very last thing I wanted was for him to see our family picture albums. My little brother knew exactly what page the embarrassing pictures lived on.
There is a difference between captured images and created images. Most of our pictures on social media are created images. We make sure everything is staged and just so before we take the picture. Then we instantly preview and put it through a filter before it’s posted. We want people to look through our online albums. Why not? Aren’t we hoping the pictures paint us in a favorable light.
Very few people post plain captured unedited images anymore. I find that I miss them and I love it when I do see them. They are so much more interesting and I find myself exploring every aspect of them. Like little mini I Spy’s. But that’s just me. Back in the 80’s I couldn’t wait to get my film developed to see all my great photos. I was always so disappointed. I was not a photographer by any means. I did get better after a couple of years of photography class in high school.
Maybe that’s the point though. As much as we post pictures, we really don’t want people to see us. Not the real us. Unless it’s trending of course and everyone is doing it (makeup less pictures). Our picture perfect online image that makes our friends feel like their life sucks or makes teenage girls aspire to perfection. Our next evolutionary step will probably be longer arms so we can hold the phone up high enough to take selfies without a double chin.
I have so many images of my 8 year old daughter. Hardly any of me and my daughter. Editing has given me the ability to avoid any image of myself being produced. I’m robbing her of memories of her mother. I will probably make more of an effort to be in pictures with her now because of these articles. Thank goodness my friends don’t care what I think and manage to snap a picture of me occasionally to post online. Maybe she’ll see those some day. I should probably download them and print them for her.
There’s been a lot of talk in the Media over the last year about breaking up the big Tech companies like Facebook and Google. I wonder what would happen to our profiles and photo albums if this happened. Are they really a permanent record comparable to physical photo albums? We’ll just have to wait and see I guess.
Another interesting thing I discovered in my conversations with people is that they seem to be more interested in buildings, houses and places versus the people in the pictures. Most of my friends were only interested in their grandparents and only a few were interested in their great grandparents. The less they knew of the people in the pictures the less they cared about the history. Some felt that unless there were stories to go with the faces, it just wasn’t important or worth knowing about. The stories seem more important when it comes to family history than the photos.
Granted my sample size is very small, less than 100 people at this point. But I have to think that with technology advancing and generations of technology disappearing these opinions will only grow in their popularity. I know this seems sad to generations of people that were quite literally entrusted with the family history of photos. But as time and technology change the way we capture an image, they also change the importance of an image. Also, we don’t say cheese anymore. Ducks don’t like cheese.