Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Insta-gram-ification


For me, it’s a shot of myself around three years old.  I am standing on our back deck in the sunshine, and I’ve got a perfectly shaped black mustache, thanks to my short career of singing into the hose of the Shop Vac which was just used to clean out the fireplace.  
I’m pretty sure I’m wearing a green shirt, but like most pictures from the past, the colors that were never that great in the first place have faded away over time.  The telltale while border around the outside of the square photograph is starting to curl and yellow from age, and the actual quality of the photograph pales in comparison to what we can do today, even on our cell phones.
But there’s just something about those old pictures.
Today, whether or not you are tech savvy, actual cameras are practically a thing of the past.  Ask a kid what “film” is and they’ll give you the same blank stare they give when you ask them what it means to “rewind” something.  The mere idea of having to take 24 photos and then drive somewhere to turn them in for developing, only to wait a week to get them back, would about blow the mind of anyone born in the last 15 years.  The cameras of even recent times have been replaced by cell phones, a conveniently on-hand device that lets us take pictures just about anywhere, anytime, where they are easily uploaded to social web sites so that all of our friends can keep visual tabs on our lives.  
The ease of photography these days leads to an excessive amount of pictures, and I wouldn’t be surprised if only 5% of what is taken actually ends up printed on a piece of paper.  What was once a special moment that you hoped you captured is now a string of fourteen shots, because one of them is bound to be good.
So I have to wonder, have we lost the wonderment that is the photograph?
Maybe.  But I think it’s coming back.
Because of the ease of smart phone applications, people are now able to take their bazillion photographs and convert them into those old fashioned looking pictures.  You can make them black and white, sepia tone, washed out, and even fade those colors just like the mustache picture from youth.  You can add that classic white border to the square photo, or even one that looks like torn paper.  
And then you can share it for all of your friends to see.
Extremely simple, extremely clever, and as some might think, extremely comical to see people with their expensive smart phones purchasing apps to make their photos look old and worn out.
I think there’s a reason we’re all jumping on this insta-memory bandwagon.  I think we miss those special shots that we once waited weeks to see.  There was trust involved…Did you actually get that shot?  And of course, suspense…When, oh when will the photo booth open?!?  But mostly there was the limited number of memories you could grab with your camera.  You had to consider if something was good enough to spend the money on shooting and printing, and then you had to get it just right because that shot was you only chance.
And chances are you got it.  Sure, there are plenty of pictures that contain thumbs over the lens and closed eyes and blurred faces.  But there are some that freeze the ideal moment in time so much that I have to wonder was world was truly black and white when my grandparents were small?  And in the late 1970’s were the colors were a dim and muted? I’m not sure I want to know the answer, even if there was an app for that.

ps.  Mom, if you're out there, you know which picture I'm talking about.  I wish I could find it so I could post it!



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