Photography: A Dying Art Form That’s Getting More Popular

Remember the days when collages of photos chaotically strewn across bedroom walls were a common fixture in teenage bedrooms? And that sense of excitement of taking a long-lost film into Boots, wondering what snaps were lurking in the dark room, debating internally at the checkout whether or not they’d be worth a few extra pounds for same day delivery? And lest not forget the disappointments… opening a package, only to find out that half of the photographs were overexposed, out of focus, or worst of all, obscured by the dreaded thumb. Those were the days!

In today’s digital age people no longer sit down with a glass of wine, rummaging through old snaps, reminiscing about the past. Looking back, it seems like a charming, yet somewhat dated past-time. It probably wouldn’t even be feasible as the sheer quantity of images we all tend to hoard is just far too great. After all, we are no longer bound by a single roll of film stock, 24 photos sporadically taken across the entire duration of a holiday. Nowadays it’s more functional to simply skim through albums on social media. Unfortunately, this means that we rarely absorb the contents.

The smartphone revolution has really tipped the balance, blurring the lines between what’s considered professional and amateur. To the untrained eye, even a bog-standard Instagram pic can look like a true masterpiece. It’s a strange paradox. Photography is more popular than ever, yet the art form is dying a quick and painful death.

I was never very good at sports and was an academic failure, but I was always a doer. I found solace in the arts, taught myself to write, taught myself to play music, and I’m currently teaching myself to make films (digitally of course!). I would love to give “real photography” a shot, but there are now so many shortcuts, I just can’t find the motivation and enthusiasm to even try.

I hate knowing that I could spend hours trying to capture a moment, only for some kid to come along with Instagram and take a snap that blows my efforts out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking photographs on my iPhone 7–I even use a portable smartphone printer these days–after all, I was (and still am) a terrible photographer! But while there are so many benefits of smartphone photography for people like myself, I can’t help feeling that something beautiful has been lost.

The Landscape has Changed

We are living in an increasingly paperless world. Pinterest is our modern pinboard; Facebook is our modern photo album; Instagram is our modern darkroom; and every two minutes we take more photographs than were produced throughout the entire 19th century. In today’s digital world, developing a film just seems wasteful, eating away at both our time and bank accounts.

But photography hasn’t only changed on a functional level, but also on an aesthetic level. If we look back just five years, foodie picks weren’t a thing; perfectly framed selfies weren’t a thing (at least not on the scale we see today); snaps of rainbows, feet sinking into wet sand, a lone browning leaf on the first day of Autumn–all of which are intended to be artsy, yet ironically lack any creativity and can, therefore, not be considered art–weren’t a thing…

Why are we so obsessed with publishing content that, quite frankly, nobody cares about? What’s even more confusing is that we all know nobody cares, yet we insist on doing it anyway–guilty as charged. But isn’t the purpose of art to evoke feelings and curiosities? And isn’t the purpose of non-artistic photography to capture real memories? I can look back on a photo from a truly terrible evening and see myself smile this mannequin smile, but it’s not like it hides the truth. Where’s the beauty in fraud?

I suppose I just miss the rush, that shattering of memories, discovering that my brain didn’t capture the same image as the camera. I don’t get this rush when someone uploads a new photo album to Facebook hours after an event has happened, before my memories have had the time to ferment. I miss the imperfections and spontaneity that make particular moments special. I miss the days when girls didn’t pout and boys didn’t brood. I miss the days when people acted naturally and didn’t feel an overwhelming urge to “look good” when there was a lens pointing at them. But most of all, I miss the days when we all knew that photographs were reserved for our bedroom walls, only to be viewed by those closest to us.

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