Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

According to estimates, a total of 1.2 trillion digital photos were taken worldwide in 2018, that is roughly 160 pictures for every one of the roughly 7.5 billion people inhabiting planet earth. One TV news picture that always gets me is of a demonstration, often in a third world country. A huge crowd marches down the road, many of them with their right arm raised in some form of salute. But look again - each hand is holding a smartphone, they are photographing the demonstration.

When I started in photography many, many years ago my favourite camera was a Sanderson plate camera.
AB with camera
It took photographs on glass plates measuring 5x4 inches (roughly 13x10cm). I had three double plate holders which meant I could take six photographs before I had to go into the dark room, develop the photographs and re-load the plate holders.

Later when 35mm colour slides were almost every photographers choice, people would take as many as six rolls of 36 exposure films on their holiday.

Today with digital cameras and smartphones I suspect the average holiday maker will take two or three thousand photographs on a fortnights holiday. Even after ruthlessly removing unwanted photograph I still have well over 6,000 on my computer.

The snag is it is so easy to take technically flawless photographs. In the old days (“Here he goes again!!” I can hear you say ) Amateur photographers had to have many skills to achieve anything like todays everyday digital image. All we do now is point the camera or smartphone and press the button. How many of us have any concept of what happens when we press that button? What do we know (or care!) about shutter speed, aperture, focus, depth of field, colour balance, contrast and a host of other things which are all taken care of in the blink of an eye?
Family Group

We take for granted that the image will be flawless.OK, we may have our thumb in front of the lens, we may not have camera straight and Uncle George is headless but the image is sharp, clear, perfectly exposed and ready to be viewed.

again do you remember Polaroid cameras?
You took the photograph, pulled a paper sandwich out of the camera, waited half a minute or so, peeled sandwich apart and you had a picture roughly 3x4 inches. If the weather was cold you often had to put the sandwich straight from the camera and stuck it under your armpit to speed up the developing process. Now, we don't even think about it, our photographs are there. straight away.

Back to my 'good old days', I would often have to weigh and mix the chemicals for the developer and fixer, develop the negative, wait for it to dry. Use an enlarger to print picture on paper and go through the developing process again. All done in the darkroom (Actually the bathroom. The stains in the bath were where I had spiled chemicals!)

Another snag. Everybody used to have a suitcase, or at least a shoebox with a great pile of family photographs. What do we do now? Put them in a folder on the computer. What will happen to them when my hard drive packs in or when I die? All my 6,000 photographs will finish up in that enormous electronic dustbin in the sky.

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