Looking back over my old photos this week got me thinking. Back to a time when you had to have a camera, send off the film, and wait for the prints to be sent back. When I was a baby, it was still quite rare to own a decent camera, so lots of photos were taken by professionals, often at studios, or functions like weddings. Those photographers would rush back to their darkrooms, and return with ‘Proofs’ that they had taken at the wedding or party. They would be displayed on a board, and if you liked them, you could order copies to be sent to you through the post.
This lengthy process meant that such photos were treasured, and usually kept in albums. All too often, photos taken by family and friends might be blurry, and possibly over-exposed. But we still appreciated having a copy, as it was the only way of remembering that moment in time, or a big occasion. Nobody expected the instant gratification of being able to see themselves immediately, and they were happy to wait for the envelope to arrive in the post.
A long time later, and Polaroid came along with the ‘Instant Camera’. The print developed before your eyes as you shook it to agitate the chemicals, and it was now possible to see the photo within a few minutes of it being taken. The prints were black and white of course, and a small square. But it felt like magic. Unfortunately, such cameras were expensive to buy, and the packs of film that went into them also cost too much, compared to a roll of film, and the developing charge.
So we carried on with film cameras. Followed by ‘Cartridge’ cameras, ‘Disc’ cameras, ‘Flashcubes’, and all the other innovations of the 1970s. But we still had to send off the film, and wait for the prints to arrive in the post. Or we could go to a high street company that would develop the film, and supply the prints within forty-eight hours. There was nothing ‘instant’ about life at the time, unless you count instant coffee.
Compare that with today. Millions of photos taken on mobile phone cameras every day, all over the world. Posted instantly to Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and numerous other social media platforms. Never have so many photos been taken, by so many people. Nobody today likes to wait for anything. It would be rare to see someone happy to send off some film and wait for it to come back. They post photos of themselves getting ready. Then photos of them in the taxi. Then photos in the club, party, or restaurant. A photo of their meal before they eat it, then what’s left after. The cocktail they have chosen to drink, and the friends around the table. Take the photo at 9 pm, and it is online ten seconds later. Plus you can save it on your phone for as long as you want.
Even if you never look at it again.
I am doing this too, to some extent. I take photos when I am out with Ollie, or visiting a place of interest. The memory card is downloaded onto my computer, and the chosen images added to a blog post. It’s not instant, but it is very fast. Convenience is all. Convenient food, convenient gadgets, convenient communities, and instant gratification.
But as I looked through those old photo albums this week, I know what I prefer.