The Life of a Dinosaur, AKA the Digital Image

If you make a photograph at a long exposure, is it really a photograph, or something more like a timeograph? Say it’s a portrait of someone but you make it with an exposure of 15 seconds. Isn’t that a time lapse rather than a moment in time frozen? 15 moments of a life?

Photography is an interesting study. It asks more questions as you offer answers. Some things like to be labeled.

When I was working at a daily metropolitan newspaper, I remember being called a dinosaur because people saw me using a pair of mechanical Nikon FM2 cameras with prime lenses, no zoom lenses which were as common then as they are today. I liked the simplicity of short, lightweight, fast prime lenses.

I bring this up because the term dinosaur sounds like I’m a Luddite, only embracing the old. But that’s not true. I use many state-of-the-art cameras and photography tools. What’s more interesting to me, and relevant, is how the dinosaur was wiped out, went extinct. How due to the way things happened, whether a meteor or some other world cataclysmic event, they’re gone. Completely. Irreplaceable.

To me, digital photography is that dinosaur. Just waiting to be obliterated due to obsolescence. That photograph–I mean digital image file–of your grandma or young child, neither one will exist once you lose it to a dead hard drive or it gets buried in a non-bootable computer. Or gone in a lost phone or any number of ways there are to lose an image file today.

The dinosaur is the perfect analogy for where a digital photograph from today will be in 30 years. In 20 years. I challenge most people to find a photo from just 10 years ago and they cannot. 2012, do you have how many devices and cameras and pictures I’ve made since then?

They’re gone, too far back, too many since–they’re somewhere…no, can’t quite put my finger on it at the moment.

But I’m the dinosaur? Little did anyone know that I would still have my negatives and slides from those newspaper photojournalist days.

U.S. President Bill Clinton on the campaign trail in 1991. Photograph from a negative.

That I would still be using my fast primes on my cameras to make new photographs to cover today’s news and stories. That while I’m using digital cameras at times for my commercial and editorial work, I still use film and make traditional darkroom silver prints.

You know–photographs that last. Look around your house, see the art that’s on the walls? If any of them are photographs from your parents or grandparents, the wall is to be thanked. It doesn’t need to be triple backed-up twice a year and doesn’t charge you ongoing cloud storage feels.

It’s a wall. With a framed photograph. It’s your home gallery.

The phone is a glance-at-picture device. But it’s a terrible storage device and not something to save your life’s work. To keep your pictures. To display your work. (It’s tiny–they’re pinching and zooming because they can’t see it.)

I’ll keep working my way with film and primes. You can call me a dinosaur.

Though I may be the only one with photographs to share in 10-20 years, due to my dinosaurian (dinosaurish?) ways!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: