Please enjoy this guest post by my good friend, Matt Incledon. I hope you enjoy it and expect more to come.
We often get caught up in the constant swarm of progress and change that we forget to take a step back and evaluate what it is we are doing. How many times have you said to yourself “oh yeah I need more memory on my PC to store more photos”, “I need to skip that team event after work because I’ve only been to the gym 3 times this week”, and “I need to upgrade my phone once I hit 2 years since I need the extra megapixel in my camera”? In the moment it can be difficult to recall the core purpose of a task. Keeping memories through photos. Exercising to be healthy. Taking quality photographs. We get caught up in the nuances of innovation and being on the cutting edge that we let the simple tasks we’re trying to accomplish become an unnecessary grind. I’m certainly guilty of this and believe others are as well.
I had this realization recently as I went to back up the photos on my cell phone to the cloud and wondered how useful this monthly effort really was. Let me rewind to how I got to this curiosity. As a kid, photos were taken on a camera that required a film cartridge, winding for every picture, looking through a glass lens, a separate attachment for flash, and adjusting the focus by hand. To view a photo the film had to be developed, which took a few days. Only then did you have a photograph to look at. To reprint photos meant saving the physical copy of the film (the negative) and bring it in to get developed again. Pictures were kept in a photo album, which was a bound book with plastic sleeves that allowed a developed photo to slip in securely. If you didn’t have the negative and lost the photo book, you lost the pictures.
Cameras evolved rather quickly, to digital cameras that didn’t require winding or film, then to increased clarity of photo, and expanded storage. Along the way, we had to purchase the newest technology. If that was unattainable, it became a goal to work toward. Today we take pictures on our phone with no winding, no physical film, auto-focusing and auto-lighting, and clarity that was unimaginable 20 years ago.
This is a wonderful innovation. It’s convenient and allows us to take and keep more pictures. Though, this comes at an opportunity cost. Along my journey of keeping up with the latest innovations to satisfy my goal of keeping memories in the form of photos, I’ve spent a lot of money, dedicated time learning new technology, been presented with the challenge of archiving old photos to whatever the newest form of storage is, etc.
This week as I’m backing up the pictures from my phone to the cloud, a task that occupies 30 mins of my time every month or so, a few questions popped up in my head. How many of the pictures that I once developed do I still have and how many got lost or trashed since they couldn’t fit in with the new technology paradigm? While it takes up physical space, having a photograph to hold in your hand is very satisfying. Where are these digital pictures I’m storing? I don’t backup to my local hard drive anymore. I use a cloud account, which means my photos are digitally stored on multiple servers around the country or the world. Does this mean I’m putting all my eggs in one basket, though, that’s not my own? If the cloud provider company folds or there’s a breach in network or security that allows me not to access my photos, could I lose them forever? What if I have some photos stored on an old cell phone that modern PC’s no longer support the ports for to connect it, are those memories gone?
Many of these questions are technology-related and have been created over time. The same issues don’t exist for physical photos using a wind-up camera. The safekeeping of my photo album and negatives is relatively all within my responsibility, barring catastrophic events such as fire, flood, or burglary. Other folks can easily access my archive of photographs with developed photos as well, there’s no need for passwords or two-factor authentication should there be a reason for others to get a hold of my pictures.
I would be a hypocrite to say the right way to take pictures is using film and store them in an album. Though some of the benefits lead me to believe this case: no inflation on photos so under a mattress is a safe storage space, cost of modern to legacy is comparable, storage is within your control, etc. I have a camera on my iPhone and love the convenience and ease of its use. In my mind, I always will have those photos stored somewhere, which is something I don’t need to worry myself with. I enjoy playing devil’s advocate to think about what is really the key value I’m trying to create by some of my actions today and is there a better, more efficient way to do so? This could mean using legacy or archaic methods. It’s an interesting thought. What circumstances do you find yourself in that may be more efficient by taking a step back to see what your initial goals are?