“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”
Oscar Wilde 1854-1900
A hundred years have come and gone since Oscar Wilde penned it, yet I have /read heard this quote twice in the last week.
To me, it is particularly relevant in the field of photography.
Photography, and the art therein, is something I first picked up as a hobby after receiving a camera for one of those landmark ‘milestone’ birthdays, (which in itself belies the adage that you ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’).
The first set of pictures I took were a compilation of the backs of random heads watching the sunset in Key West’s Mallory Square. I didn’t recognize any of them.
It was decision time. I’d spent four dollars on the roll of film and ten dollars to develop this family of strangers, basically contributing fourteen dollars to the recycle bin.
I decided to go for it, the craft of making pictures to document life’s highpoints: exotic travel destinations, more exotic travel destinations, friends and animals (at times one and the same) at exotic travel destinations. You get the picture.
The goal became to make a visual biography (auto biography) of life’s excellent adventures.
And that is where, in my opinion, the value of film far outstrips the digital world of megapixels.
With the click, click, click, delete, delete, delete functionality of digitals, it doesn’t seem to matter to most, (broad stokes here), whether there’s any UFO’s in the background, dogs humping behind the main subjects, (I know I know, to some that’s the point!), or whether or not the image resonates.
Who cares, take another one; it doesn’t have to be fine art.
We’re of a generation that is tracked to take the most pictures of any previous generations.
How many of us, with our memory cards and images loaded on our P.C’s are actually keeping historical photographic records that we can pull out and show our grandchildren from our wicker rocking chairs?
I don’t want to pontificate from my light box, but I can’t count the number of times that
- People have told me about the great pictures of their trip. When I ask to see them they say, “Oh, they’re on a disk; I’ll load them on to my computer and let you know so you can come over and see them. Still waiting…….still………………waiting.
- Watched as a group of people (to the point of distraction in Australia) all look into the two-inch- by-two-inch LCD screen, come to an agreement as to who is going to take the shot, run to the bench/monument/light pole, grin, wave, peace sign, smile, wait for the click, then run back to the picture taker, to once again hang over each other and peer into the two-by-two inch screen to see if they look any different than the nano- second before. It’s not that it’s not a fun thing to do, but after many years of watching the digital camera revolution ‘roll’ out, it is scary to realize that more often than not, this is how we’re gathering our autobiographical rosebuds.
Don’t get me wrong. We all pick up a camera for different reasons and different purposes. Digital can certainly be useful, especially for commercial jobs and service pieces. And I admit I caved a mere two weeks ago, purchasing a digital CANON Rebel (personally identified with the name) T1i for some upcoming jobs.
But for the love of making pictures, the art of working at it, spending the time to both listen as well as see what others don’t, the photographic negative holds a lot of positives for me.
Rather than the price of nothing, it’s the value of everything.