Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cameras, always ready

It's been a surprising week for photography in my life; not because I'm producing quality art, but because the camera world is changing so quickly. I am witnessing a world still unable to cope with the fact that everyone has a camera with them at all times.

I don't have many decent shots of myself. I've asked companions to take interesting photos over the past few years and I have quickly trashed most of them, harsh self-critic as I am. But since my iPod takes self-portraits so easily, I find myself glancing at myself in mirrors hoping for just the perfect combo of lighting and background. Worse than self-portraits of people standing in front of their bathroom mirrors with toilet seat undoubtedly up, there are tons of headshots taken behind the wheel. Forget texting and driving, narcissism and driving are far more dangerous.

I was recently given a cache of old family photos from my dad, who, perhaps sensing his imminent departure from this world, doesn't want to be held responsible for the family archives. Since my childhood straddled most of the 1970s, there is, as you'd expect, a pile of little "Olan Mills" logos on the bottom of most shots. And Olan Mills is still around, along with Sears Portraits and all their ilk. How is this business model still relevant in 2013? Even more troubling, as I am jobhunting, I find more than a few portrait studios looking for staff. Besides my intense abhorrence for infants, clowns and standing for long periods of time, I still have to wonder aloud and seriously if this might be a good career move for me.

As my family was leaving my mother's house after xmas dinner last month, getting into their cars and saying their goodbyes, I mentioned quietly that, gee, we had everyone together and no one thought to take a family shot. After I received a swift slap on the back of my head from my mother, I began to wonder if those huge widescreen televisions in everyone's living rooms (except mine) could be rigged to continuously take group photos. It's bad enough that 95% of the family photos I have collected throughout my life invariably have xmas trees in the background, but it seems that no one can really be trusted to have the social fortitude to wrangle family shots, even if everyone is packing their own cameras.

I didn't grow up in a photography family. Although there are ancient 8mm xmas morning movies rotting in a box somewhere, I do not believe I saw my first "professional" camera set-up until I peeked into my high school a/v locker.  I regret many events in my life where there are no visual records existing. This brought me to a tech news item today about "memoto", a tiny camera you can clip to the front of your shirt that will take a couple of thousand photos throughout your day and even sort it all out for you later on.  Besides the chance to make you viciously unpopular in your home or work situation, is this really a good idea? We are already on camera and under surveillance in so many places in our lives, is complete saturation the answer? (and is it really just a government ploy to document every moment for our future FEMA-camp lives?)

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