A Disturbing Lack of Permanence in All Things Digital...
Have you given any thought to the relationship between digital technology and the ever-expanding notion that our society not only lives in - but even desires - a throw-away culture? O.K., perhaps "throw-away" is too political a term to use, insofar as it may invoke feelings of politically-incorrect waste and environmental harm.
But the concept of a throw-away society really has more to do with the impermanance of all things that such a society holds dear and true. What does this have to do with digital technology? As it turns out, a great deal.
Here's how it works. When you stop and think about it, everything that we do in life, our world and even the revolution of our solar system is, in fact, temporary. We all know it - at least at some level. Whether we are talking about life itself, a mortar and brick building or a political empire, we realize that nothing lasts forever. Human beings have dealt with this irrefutable truth since we became self-aware. That's a huge reason we like to build varying degrees of semi-permanence into our lives.
A venerable old cement edifice with wrought-iron fences around it makes us feel like we belong because IT has belonged for so long - far more than a cheap stucco-smeared strip-mall building that goes up and comes down at the whim of an investor. We do things to our homes that bring a welcome sense of permanence. These physical adornments help to define spaces within the context of our own personality and help make a house a home.
So what does this have to do with photography? Plenty. Who still "prints" photographs? More and more people are merely storing their binary "ones and zeros" on various forms of digital media storage. Some even go so far as to organize, classify and back-up their precious photo memories and compositions onto alternative drives.
Store and display your images on a digital frame, computer monitor or DVD slideshow? Great gizmos, cool toys and high-tech ways to display images, but it is all so temporary. Wait three to seven seconds and the image is gone, replaced by yet another randomly selected scene. Yes, the original image will eventually come back, but when it does, it will, once again, last for just seconds.
Do you see what's happening here? Tangible, old-fashioned, printed photographs held in frames not only continue to appear for years upon years (as opposed to mere seconds); they also feed the human soul. Prints hung on walls or placed on countertops define our spaces and do so in a far less temporary way than do digital displays.
It's not just about printing photographs. It's also about the race to trade-up. Ask any photographer older than 35 or 40 and they will tell you how their traditional 35mm SLR or medium format film camera was a one-stop deal. Once you reached that pinnacle - one where your photo equipment matched your photographic potential - you could stop there.
Now our purchase decisions regarding any digital camera are framed within a background knowledge that the equipment will be outshone by a newer and more powerful model in just a few short years.
What to do?
Print and hang more of your photos. Print your works into coffee table photo books and display them proudly for friends and family to see. Find different ways to incorporate photographs into other physical art forms.
It's a start! These practices will not solve the digital impermanence problem, but they will help shift perspective in a very primal and positive way!
What do you think?
Perspective on Photography is FreePhotoCourse.com's official Blog. This is where you can find updates, stories, news, links to photo "finds" and more from FreePhotoCourse's contributing photographers and writers.