The slow demise of printed photographs

On Easter Sunday of this year, I spent a fair amount of time looking through old printed photos of family Easter gatherings from decades long past. Most of the photos were five inches by seven inches and had time/date stamps either on the border or on the back of the photos. I was holding documented family history in my hands that brought back many fond memories.

As a child growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I recall spending hours upon hours flipping through the tattered pages of our large family album that my mother and sisters had so meticulously put together. There were photographs of family members I had never known and many of my parents and older siblings that were taken and printed long before I was born.

I also recall many of my siblings’ children spending hours poring through those old photos asking all sorts of questions about who the people were and at times laughing about the clothing and home furnishings that appeared in the hard copy memories.

A few days later, it occurred to me that these old photographs are pieces of our history that many who were born after digital photography became the standard will likely never know the pleasure of looking back on.

Prior to the digital revolution of photography and even prior to high-resolution cameras being a standard feature of most new smartphones, we used film in our cameras and had no idea of what we may have captured through the lenses of our cameras until the film was either taken to a photo processing center—which were commonly located in either drug stores or larger department stores—or mailing our film to processing centers and waiting impatiently for weeks to see our photographs.

We had no concept of the possibility of someday being able to see an image instantly on our hand-held cellular telephones and having the ability to crop and color correct our images. And the idea that we could also use our phones to share those photos with others was simply unimaginable.

But today, when we are attempting to capture those special moments, we have the option of immediately seeing what has been photographed and the ability to retake the photo if we are not satisfied with the results.
Digital photography and advancements in telephone technology have no doubt changed the way the world captures memories and moments in time and given us the ability to share them instantly with friends and family throughout the world.

However, it’s unfortunate that many will never know the pleasures of thumbing through faded, folded, and torn images of days gone by.


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