When my mother died we put together a slide show of photographs of her life. As the slide show progressed I noticed that there were a few of her childhood, then some of her wedding, and a growing number when we children were born, and finally an array of pictures taken during the last few years. Of all eras of her life there were the most of her later years, and this was because the technology was so much easier and accessible. The entire slide show was not only one about her life, but also one that related the history of photography over the last 80 years.
When I was raising children we would take pictures and then have to wait to have them developed. Some would be out of focus, or at an awkward angle, or taken of someone’s shoes accidentally, and some would be good. With the advent of digital photography and the ability to see the image right away the entire experience has changed. If there is an out of focus shot, we immediately can take another. We take many more pictures now because it is so easy. I cannot imagine raising children now, as one would have hundreds of pictures every day of almost every event in their lives.
When I was a child, and when I was raising children there was always a fuss made by some child whenever someone wanted to take a picture. Someone would cry, or run away, or make a face. Now with pictures being taken all the time children have this as a part of everyday experience, they may make a face, but then they want to see it. Their world is always being photographed and the understanding that cameras are all around us, in our computers and stores and on people’s phones have had, I am assuming, a profound shift in our self-awareness.
Another aspect of this world of being photographed all the time is our understanding of what we look like. During most of my life I have understood what I look like by seeing myself in a mirror. It was the mirror image that I most often thought of as my image. But now with so many photographs of ourselves we and children are seeing and understanding ourselves in the image that others are seeing us and not just the mirror image.
What this will mean for us as a culture, I have no idea. It is simply an observation for me, now. The way I write and share news of my life, or promote events in my work has changed in that I always have to consider a picture to go with my post or press release. And I can take one instantly. What I have to say is not only through words but also images. How this effects my way of thinking is interesting to me, and on one level I notice that I and others will not write as long of letters or news. But on the other hand, I am more prone to write more often and think of sharing things in writing and with images that I never would have thought of doing before.