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Thread: Digital loss of memory

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Digital loss of memory

    When I was a child, I, and all of my friends, knew what we looked like last year, the year before, the year before that and so on from we were born. All families had photo albums or drawers full of prints. It's how the world was organised.

    I had an interesting conversation with a seven year old a few days ago about what she looked like when she was as old as her almost three year old sister. She didn't have a clue. There are no albums, no prints. Since I never throw away photos, and since I did see her on occasions then, I do have photos of her taken at irregular intervals. I showed her one. She was very surprised, and had no recollection of the girl in the photo.

    Unfortunately, this is the reality for an increasing number of people. Digital photos are taken for instant gratification. Then, as the device used is changed or lost, the photos disappear forever. Some are uploaded to online services of different kinds, but passwords are forgotten and companies go out of business, so in many cases, that's not forever either.

    I find it worrying and sad.

    Here's the girl at three, taken with the GH1 and Zeiss CY 85mm f/1.4:

    Last edited by Jorgen Udvang; 12th August 2015 at 07:08.

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    Senior Member MikeEvangelist's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Jorgen Udvang View Post
    I find it worrying and sad.
    Exactly right.

    I often (attempt to) explain to my sons and others how important it is to keep copies of their photos.

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Just think: prior to 1840, no one had any photos of themselves at all ...

    G

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    "I find it worrying and sad."

    While I agree, I wonder.

    Those of us (OF's) who grew up in a very different time may have a very different set of fundamental values regarding photographs than younger people with their growing up experience.

    First, we may value our linkage to the past (our roots) more than younger people ever will... especially with their fragmented families via divorce and distant relocations.

    Second, we probably romanticize photography a bit more... especially those of us who were blown away seeing our first print come up in the "darkroom".

    Third, we probably tend to think it's more important simply because we made the commitment so long ago... how could we be wrong.

    Fourth, when it was difficult to do it well, it had more value. When it's drop dead easy, has no value?.

    Fifth, our children may have been so camera abused by we enthusiasts that they never want to see a camera again.

    With our values, we believe the younger people will eventually regret not having those family photos. But maybe not.

    My relevant experience. First, I had to talk my daughter into having a professional photographer at her wedding and then take the initiative 5 years later to finally get an album put together for her from negs I purchesed.

    Second, I have been taking photos of my GS's travel hockey experience. Put books together on two successive years of some damn good images. My other daughter and husband yawned and so did most of the other players parents. The 10 year olds were very interested, but not the parents.

    Finally decided it just wasn't worth it and just don't do it anymore.

    I'd like to think there will come a day when they will look back and regret not having the photos.

    But have to accept the possibility that they are different than me, and just won't.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
    Just think: prior to 1840, no one had any photos of themselves at all ...

    G
    You are right of course, although rich people had paintings made. So maybe photos as a permanent memory was just a passing thing. Maybe the past is something meant to be forgotten. We don't seem to learn much from it anyway

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Very few of the film photographs my parents and grandparents took exist anymore. I think confusing media with organization can lead to strange conclusions.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    Very few of the film photographs my parents and grandparents took exist anymore. I think confusing media with organization can lead to strange conclusions.
    The last 15+ years, I've been travelling extensively in rural areas around Southeast Asia. Most families I get in touch with have "pre-digital" photo albums, mostly small ones with plastic pockets for each photo. Photos taken after the the camera phone was introduced exist only on the phone in most cases, and only as long as the phone lives. While many printed photos are lost over time, it's mostly a slow process that takes decades. With digital media, the death is instant and fast.

    In the large scheme of things, this may not matter. The sheer volume of photos taken hopefully results in a solid base for future generations to understand what life was like in 2015. But for each family, many of whom don't store digital media, this documentation seems to disappear.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOAiO7Q25Ng

    Edit:
    There are obvious reasons for this phenomenon. Storing prints is very easy. Anybody can do it. No device is needed for storing. No device is needed for viewing. The format is universal. Digital media are anything but. This is not the first time I mention this, but the consequences are becoming visible, just as many have predicted.

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Printed images do have a definite life time. A lot of my photos (that I took) are locked up in slides. Got rid of the projectors a while back.

    The ~2000 pictures I took at a recent wedding- no one wants prints. They want to share it via various social media.
    If the ones concerned do not want to archive it in prints...

    They do have a choice though.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Vivek View Post
    Printed images do have a definite life time. A lot of my photos (that I took) are locked up in slides. Got rid of the projectors a while back.

    The ~2000 pictures I took at a recent wedding- no one wants prints. They want to share it via various social media.
    If the ones concerned do not want to archive it in prints...

    They do have a choice though.
    Choice is an interesting word. Most people choose what seems convenient at the moment. Inconvenience doesn't seem to belong in the twentyfirst century.

    I use prints as gifts to people. The reactions I get are overwhelming. I think most people like prints, but technology has made them an obsolete luxury for most, even though quality prints are cheaper and faster to make than they have ever been.

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    Senior Member f6cvalkyrie's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Since I live partially in Russia, I shoot "happenings" for (mostly young) people. Like graduation parties, family events, the occasional wedding, even a day off to the beach for them ....
    Generally, I deliver an album afterwards, like 20-25 pages with a mix of smaller and bigger pictures ... people adore them and are very happy with them ... I hope they will last a long time, but it is printed media anyway.
    If they do desire so, I also deliver digital copies on usb-stick or on disk, but many do not own the right digital equipment to do the digital pictures justice. So they prefer the printed album.

    Maybe things will change in the next decade ???

    Interesting times, everything changes, but the world is not the USA or Europe, as Jorgen and I feel (I think) every day ...

    Have fun,
    Rafael

    PS : I do not do this to earn a living !
    E-M1/GH2/G1 Full Spectrum & lots of lenses
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/f6cvalk...th/9226689839/

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Rafael, You will be shocked about the trend globally even if you forget the US and the EU.
    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Jorgen Udvang View Post
    No device is needed for storing.
    You need at least a box, which can be thrown out or lost very easily…

    OK. Since you have some data. How many digital photographs are taken and then lost? What is the data for printed photographs? I had someone come into my office and call up his entire family photos on his iPhone on Flickr. If he gets another phone, he can also get to Flickr. He could not have access to a box in the attic, assuming he had not lost the box. Loose the phone and the images are still there. Those photos exist independently of the device to view them.

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    we make photobooks of family stuff using Blurb and hand them out to family ...

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    You need at least a box, which can be thrown out or lost very easily…

    OK. Since you have some data. How many digital photographs are taken and then lost? What is the data for printed photographs? I had someone come into my office and call up his entire family photos on his iPhone on Flickr. If he gets another phone, he can also get to Flickr. He could not have access to a box in the attic, assuming he had not lost the box. Loose the phone and the images are still there. Those photos exist independently of the device to view them.
    For most people in this world, the phone is the only storage device that they own. When the phone dies, they could in theory transfer the photos to a new phone, but in my experience, few do. New generations know little about how computers work, and thanks to dumbing down of user interfaces, that will not improve. They don't know how to transfer a file to start with, except uploading it to FB etc., and the new device may not even communicate with the old one. Not even I can manage to transfer files from my Nokia to my Sony, and I've been working with computers since the early seventies.

    I have not taken particularly well care of photos from my childhood and earlier, but surprisingly many are still around, with me and with my relatives. Photos that are 50-100 years old can easily be read by the naked eye. Current data devices can mostly only read storage units that are less than 10-15 years old, and many can't read anything that isn't wirelessly connected and can't expand its own memory to accommodate historical data. I'm looking at you, Apple

    So the answer to your question Vivek is: Most photos that are taken nowadays are lost after a few months or years. They may exist in some form on a device or in the cloud, but is not accessable to the creator.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    An interesting aside:
    Most manufacturers of printers, inks and paper advertise the longevity of their final product the print, and apparently, a lot of money and effort is invested in improving this, resulting in prints that will last for 100 years or more, even from consumer grade printers.

    Lasting standards for data storage and common standards for transfer of files between devices of different generations are clearly not priorities. While copying and storing files over time is easy for those with the right knowledge and equipment, most people have neither, and often not the understanding of the fact that things will be lost. Young people of today probably don't even care. This is the world as they know it.

    Digital imaging is clearly a disruptive technology, but while we mostly think of it as disruptive in the shape of cost, practicality and quality, there are other factors also, that may have more consequences for our understanding of photography than we normally think about. When aunt Edna took a photo of her grandson with her Instamatic in 1965, it was a memory for a lifetime. That ain't necessarily so in 2015. That's a change in the social tissue of our societies. Not earth shattering maybe, but a very distinct change.

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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Jorgen Udvang View Post
    For most people in this world, the phone is the only storage device that they own.
    Proof?

    You like making lots of claims about other people. Where are you getting this knowledge? My nephew is a lot more savvy about internet services than I am.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Digital loss of memory

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    Proof?

    You like making lots of claims about other people. Where are you getting this knowledge? My nephew is a lot more savvy about internet services than I am.
    22% of the people in this world own a computer, but in large parts of the world, this figure is much lower, since most computers are sold in "The Western World" and only sent to the more populous parts of the world for recycling after they have stopped working. Even in poor rural areas, surprisingly many have had access to a camera within the family, since p&s cameras, film and processing have been cheap. These cameras are now being replaced by smart phones, devices that cater for all computing and communication needs most people will ever encounter.

    Most people don't live in what we call "The Western World". Most people live in Asia.

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