Over the last few weeks I have seen many posts and news items concerning the fate of today’s photography. It seems that we are taking more photographs than ever before yet as most of these are snapped on smart phones and uploaded to social media sites we have the paradox that this could well be the least documented period of time a hundred years down the road. You see, all those digits, those ones and zeroes, will become lost in the ether. Stored on technology that the average man in the street can no longer access or simply lost when the user got bored and closed their social media account. When one of the big-wigs at Google is a leading voice on the subject you know there is a problem brewing. Put simply, the problem is that we are simply not printing enough.
Or, the majority are not printing at all.
So in the future the box of family snaps and, in my case, old slides, tucked away at the back of the cupboard is an endangered species. I have a large suitcase, yes, a large suitcase, overflowing with pictures taken by myself and my father over the years. These go back to the 1950s and when my own children were younger they loved rifling through the case looking for pictures of Dad in his shorts pulling a wooden cart around the garden, aged two. The early colour snap of me in “that red jumper again Dad” caused much mirth. The girls simply couldn’t envisage that in 1959 I only owned one, perhaps two, jumpers. Many are small 2.5″ x 2.5″ contact prints, most are black and white and many are slightly dog-eared, but they will remain viewable long after my latest modern digital storage device has found its place in landfill heaven.
I see this a lot with portrait work where increasingly I am asked for digital files and the “Facebook-ready” set is shared with obvious pride and pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the technology is fabulous and I enjoy seeing people enjoy my work and the pleasure they get from sharing it. I just worry that we are not doing enough to preserve these precious memories for future generations. But there is no getting away from the fact that print and canvas sales are on the wane. As a professional I prefer to take control of the printing process myself. Whether I print them myself or outsource the job I can ensure the highest quality particularly when it comes to producing faithful colours and a print that will last a lifetime.
I am looking at the packages I offer at the moment and am tempted to provide an option to have the set delivered as a packet of 9″x6″ prints. To make it a cost-effective option I would need to outsource the printing but I would at least be making my own small contribution to the large suitcases of the future.