Photography in the Insta-age

Some hasty google research has just informed me that we now upload more than 1.8 billion photos to the internet every day. 1.8 billion. I can’t even really conceive of that number. That means that each hour we upload 75 million photos. 1,250,000 every second. Every second! These statistics were from 2014, so I’m sure the real total for right now is much bigger. In the seconds it took you to read these lines many million photos were uploaded. In 2012, the total was a little over 300 million, so that’s a quadrupling of the number uploaded in just 2 years. Sadly, I couldn’t find statistics on just the number of photos of cats uploaded, but the total trend is still truly whopping.

It’s just incredible how many pictures of the average person exist on the internet these days. Well, the average western person under 30 for sure. I got to thinking recently how strange it that I only got Facebook when I went to University in 2006. In less than 10 years, the way I take, share, and see photos has completely changed. There were simply no photos of me online before then. I could only share them by sending them in an email or even in the post (remember that?!) Now, sharing a new photo is one of the main ways I share something, or even just communicate. It could be saying ‘Look at this!’ ‘LOL!’ ‘Wish you were here’ ‘Heyyyy!’ or any number of other complex and detailed messages…

Do you think that in the future our grandchildren will huddle around our ancient Facebook accounts and scroll back through decades of photos?! Weird. But possible. Of course, by then we’ll be communicating through brain implants, so maybe our grandchildren will just blink through our decades old photos in a millisecond. But I digress…

It seems certain that photos will remain one of the main ways we share and communicate in the future and this is something that has, to be honest, been freaking me out a little. I recently decided to delete loads of old Facebook photos and to only leave the last year’s photos there. This could just be an exercise in vanity (Yikes! What was I thinking with that haircut?!) but hopefully comes from a more general concern about how much essentially outdated and irrelevant data exists about me online.

Whether or not deleting all my old photos is necessary, I began to be more deliberate about the photos I shared publicly. For me, the reason to share a photo publicly is either because I hope that it is a good photo or because it is of a funny or happy event/memory. I wouldn’t claim to be an amazing photographer, but I certainly enjoy taking good photos. Or at least trying. I have a ‘proper’ camera, though the resolution of iPhone photos is impressive. One of the main reasons I take photos is because, well, I want to make something that looks nice. I have to admit to some frustration with the amount of truly terrible photos that people share online (I know, I’m a snob.) This just doesn’t make sense to me. Sometimes, all artistic value of a photo is removed and, unless it is somehow incredibly touching or hilarious, I don’t really see the point of it.

But maybe this points to another change in the way we take and view photos. I guess photos were originally the cheap equivalent of getting your portrait painted. Things showing status, recording history, and preserving images of (normally very serious looking) family members. These were ‘shared’ on a wall, literally, and kept permanently. Only professional photographers could take pictures originally, but over time cameras became common and stacks of holiday snaps were kept in albums, organised carefully and perhaps treasured. I remember my dad’s slide shows and the value placed on each decades old picture.

In the days before digital, each photo had a value it doesn’t have anymore. To take a photo it had to be a special moment or a beautiful view. Taking a snap of a stranger because he looks like your mate Kev wouldn’t have been possible. Just think of the effort required to print said photo of Kev’s lookalike, before sending it to him in the post…

On reflection, it seems photos have become one of our major forms of communication in the smartphone age. As with all forms of communication, different people communicate differently, meaning my frustration with how some use photos to do this is not surprising. They just have a different rationale for taking photos. Also, it is clear that photos are still used as art and as treasured memories, just in new and exciting ways.

So I think maybe I need to change my view of photos and just revel in the fact that I don’t have to sit and look sternly at the camera for several minutes just to take one picture. And just maybe I will communicate my latest baking success/fail through a photo or 10…

IMG_3172

Advertisements