I was handing out Halloween candy and had the usual polite kids with their parents taking candy with the traditional line, “Trick or treat.” One adult came up asking for a Tootsie Roll, and we were in business–we had them! But the one visitor that surprised me was a young girl, about 15, who came up to the candy basket with a friend about the same age and asked, “How much do we get?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know, a couple pieces each, how about?”
They proceeded to each take two pieces of candy, then turned and were on their way.
Odd. What kind of a question is that? Sounded so opportunistic; “I must get all I can–what is the limit?”
Which reminded me of digital photography and the way many people make images today. “How many can I get?” That’s the goal, to get as many as possible.
I was photographing an event at Google and the local college’s cheerleaders and band came running into the room and everyone attending that conference held up their phone and started recording videos. Literally every single one. For what? Who is ever going to look at that? When will you share that video or watch it yourself? Are we just getting it because we can? Because that’s what the guy with the candy at the door said was how much we get?
It seems to me we’re missing things when we’re doing that, like the actual experience, but we can’t help ourselves. “How much do we get, how many can I shoot?” That’s the way we make images–getting as many as possible. But with no plan of what we will ever do with them. We don’t know why we need so many. We just know to get all we can.
I’ll tell you what we will do with them. Do you want to know? Here it is.
Those videos are as useless as parade videos, concert videos, and fireworks videos.
The billions of photos made every day are a huge, costly storage problem, especially for images that will never be accessed or seen again. They’re just being made because they can be and the storage companies are getting rich “archiving” them for us.
Not because they’re wanted or that they need to be.
But because we can. That’s how many we get.
As much as I enjoy using digital cameras for commercial and editorial work, I am glad I still use film for family and friends’ portraits, for the photographs I care about. Because no matter how out of control the digital space gets, the film arena is always just 12-36 exposures, and I can make them count.
Those are the photographs that usually matter the most to me.