There are two things that you should know that I did last week:
- I deleted every single photograph that I have ever taken on a digital camera off my back up hard drive
- I joined Instagram
Lets start with the first.
For the sake of this post it’s not important how I managed to remove my entire photo library from existence. Just that I did, and it was my own fault and I didn’t realise it at the time.
A couple of weeks went past in blissful ignorance and then one day when looking for a photo I realised that there were none. There was no library. Every last one of them was gone.
I did the digital equivalent of pulling my house apart and then it dawned on me. I had done it. They were all gone. Holiday photos, family photos, work photos. Photos I was really proud of. Photos that would never see the light of day again.
The feeling that I experienced was not the one that I expected. I didn’t care. I felt I should care but I felt more relieved than anything.
The second thing that I did last week was join Instagram. A social media platform where millions of users upload stylised images of their food, themselves and their pets in an attempt to increase the number other users following them and thusly winning.
To win you need to provide regular, engaging images that are going to make other people want to follow you. People like to associate themselves with other people that are more successful than themselves like moths around a flame.
It’s why footballers all gather round the one that scored the goal.
The effect of this is to create envy and to some extent a weird virtual food chain. Of course Instagram is not the only version of this game: all social media does this.
The result is we pore over all these images looking at how well other users are doing and we upload our own. To the tune of 277,000 tweets and 216,000 new Instagram photos every minute of every day.
Maybe it is starting to desensitise us to imagery. We are recording history at an ever increasing and astounding rate and thats just it.
I realised that my photos no longer held that meaning that they once did. Go back 50 years. I think there are three photos of my dad as a kid. Now kid’s first selfies are ultrasounds of them before they are even born.
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Are photos so ubiquitous that they are starting to loose their meaning? I can see the other side of the world, the dark side of the moon, someone in Kazakstan all at the click of a button and I can see millions if not billions of these images.
These images also no longer occupy a physical space, I mean I deleted 10 years worth of photos by accident. Imagine doing that if they were all 8×10 prints. They have lost their value and their meaning.
As the old saying goes if you can turn dirt to gold then gold becomes the same price as dirt.