Question 141 of 365: Why do we still take pictures?

I know the answer to this question is obvious. I know that pictures
are beautiful and artful and they capture perfect moments in time. I
get that. They will always exist regardless of how easy it gets to
take and share video. The still image will still reign supreme in
terms of ease of use, both to take and to view. Movies and other kinds
of media will always require more time to review than pictures. The
best kinds of photographs evoke an emotional response that take an
entire film to manifest. All of this is true.

But, I want to know why we continue to let pictures be only that.

Today, I stood and held my son, kicking and screaming, while my
extended family joined mine for an hour with a professional
photographer near to the spot where my wife and I met. We posed in
four different locations, all the while trying to convince my son to
look at the camera and not cry. I think we may have managed it once.

While the photographer took pictures with a digital camera, I couldn’t
help but think that the whole process was something that could have
happened 50 years ago or more. There was nothing more going on than a
shutter clicking and a moment being frozen in an artist’s lens.

What more could there be?

I thought about that a lot. I tried to come up with what the moment
was missing. And I think it is this: context.

I want those pictures to contain the details about how both of my
brothers are mere months away from their wedding days. I want them to
be injected with how much weight my younger brother and mother have
lost. I want them to tell the story about my grandmother seeing her
great grandchildren (my children) for the first time. And more than
anything, I wanted there to be the impetus of all of this: the time I
walked up to my wife in the dorm cafeteria and told her that her
choice to not eat meat was pretty cool. Those stories are in my head,
but my children won’t know them.

Even if I retell most of them in detail to my kids, they won’t see how
it affected those pictures. They won’t see that the context of those
images can be just as beautiful as the images themselves. They may not
even remember their great grandmother. And for this, I wonder just why
we take pictures the way that we always have.

I have previously written about my interest in tagging everything, but
this is different. I don’t want to tag the pictures with these things.
I want them to be a part of the process. I want to spend the time
telling to stories of each image that we take as important so that we
may remember it as such. Tagging really is about assigning meta-data
to objects, but I want the data to be a part of the object. I want the
context to be the process of taking a picture. I want the camera to
collect the story and the photograph at the same time.

Rather than saying “cheese” (or “Chiefs” as we say in our football
loving household), we should be speaking a meaningful word or idea
that brought us here. The camera should capture those and then delve
into the context of each.

Because each of those photographs will be printed in the same way that
they have always been printed, we should be able to create the print
of the context as well. Let the story be the frame. Let the history be
the outermost edge, making the image appear all the more in focus
because we know who the people are. We know them better, and more
importantly, future generations will know them.

I believe that if we don’t change some of the way that we photograph
our world, the history of “us” will be lost. While I know that we are
doing some of this by tagging faces and places, or by tweeting out a
message with a picture, I think we may be missing just how important
the deeper past should be. Without the frame, we have not moved ahead.
Without the story, we are just sharing the same photographs by a new
method. Anyone have an app for that?

Posted via email from The Throughput

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