Do you remember when taking a photograph wasn’t simply a matter of whipping out your phone, pressing a virtual button, reviewing, editing it in some app and then uploading to Facebook or the cloud or whatever?
Photography used to be all turning dials, carefully sizing up your view, not pointing into the sun and clicking. Of course I’m talking holiday snap photography and not the serious photography carried out by men who belonged to camera clubs with three cameras around their necks, dozens of lenses, light meters, and hundreds of rolls of film all with different speeds – whatever a film speed is.
Photography used to be hard and very hit or miss. How many times did I send off my free film envelope to have my holiday snaps developed only to find, when they were returned a few days later, twenty or so glossy squares of people with their heads cut off or obscured by my thumb. There were often some strange orange and black nothing snaps that were plastered with stickers in the packet too. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I might get two or three passable pictures out of a roll of thirty-six. But I do remember the elation of being returned thirty-seven prints from a thirty-six film even if thirty-four of them were really rubbish.
And what about loading the camera in the first place? Such a fiddly experience with spools and tabs to slot the film in and to top it all you had to shut yourself in a dark cupboard to do it so as not to expose the film. I remember once at Dudley Zoo going into the reptile house to load my camera only to find that I hadn’t closed the camera back fully and my - what were definitely thirty-six or seven fantastic shots of monkeys and penguins - turned out as a series of grey fogged nothings. Happy days? Probably, but I don’t have the pictures to prove it.
In my house there are hundreds of photographs, drawers and drawers full of them. Most of them were taken on all manner of ‘proper’, but relatively cheap cameras. Some were taken using those useless disposable things that were all the rage for a while and guaranteed to disappoint. Others were snapped using a camera that took a film cartridge instead of a roll. There may even be the odd badly fading and horribly asymmetrical Polaroid lurking alongside them. What a revelation; a camera that developed instant pictures, although the films were an astronomical price.
Even with all those happy memories of big rocks and ships in the very far distance gathering dust, I can’t remember the last time I looked at them. This digital world has made it all too easy. Everyone seems to be able to take a half decent photograph even if it is only of them pouting or a pint of beer and you can keep your whole life on a single USB.
I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.