When is a photograph a photograph? When the shutter opens? Or is it when you hold a print in your hand?
When I started my venture into digital photography in the late 90's my first camera was a 0.2 megapixel Kodak DC-25. I thought how great it was that we can store photographs on our computers. Finally no more bulky albums and boxes filled with negatives and prints. I can take unlimited photos without spending money on film or waiting for processing! I loved taking a snapshot on the DC-25 and showing a family member it on the postage-stamp-sized LCD. I always took it with me.. I was a kid and I loved photography.
Where are those photos today?
I imagine they are somewhere on an IBM 286Mhz computer's hard drive in my parents garage. And if they are still on that relic they are in Kodak's proprietary *.K25 file format since jpegs were still in development when that camera was made.
It took me a long time to realize that prints of photographs are what is important. I put my best photos on my Tumblr & this website.. Instagram.. twitter.. they are all out there. People look at them and give a like and that is where they sit. The "original" buried in my computer and on Dropbox. I have had prints of some of my photographs made and I have a great Epson photo printer so why do I show people my photos from a vacation on an iPad?
During this last Thanksgiving I gathered with my family and my Aunt brought out a large box full of family photos.. some dating back over 60 years. I can hold them in my hands and pass them on and I was transported to a time where the grass was greener and holding hands meant something. A feeling I had not had looking at photos from earlier this century on a computer screen or iPad. Seeing photos of Great Grandparents that I had never met in period that I could not even fathom. And it was tangible.
Another oddity that I found was there were some really great photographs. Especially ones made in a time without in camera metering. And some must of been taken by either taken by my Mom or my Dad and if I handed them my camera right now I get an out of focus photo in landscape orientation with our heads cut off.
So what is the point of this post, Riley?
I am glad you asked. I am scared that our generation is going to lose a lot of their special moments captured by a camera into a digital void. Your great, great grandchildren will want to sit down on their futuristic anti-gravity chair in their silver one-piece outfit and flip through an actual album filled with prints to see how you lived in such a primitive time in the year 2013. JPEGs will be on a wikipedia page with K25 files about formats that used to exist.
So keep your photos on your computer and share them on your social media but also go and make some prints. The future depends on it.
In 2014 I will be building a nice shelf. I will buy nice leather bound albums. And I will have prints of my photographs made by a great lab to fill those albums. And I will pass these albums down to those who come after me just like my Great Grandpa did.
Your reward for reading this whole rant.. are some poor scans of actual film prints from that aforementioned box. Have a Merry Christmas and I hope you join me in the New Year as I go further down the rabbit hole of photography.