How digital photos have altered our actions and rewired our thinking
Nicole Neverman, 18, packed lightly for her spring break service trip to Juarez, Mexico: sunscreen, a sleeping bag, a 7.1 megapixel Canon Powershot and two memory cards. The St. Thomas freshman will snap hundreds of pictures many before she arrives, since the group of 25 drove.
Twin michael kors handbags Cities college students are documenting this week’s spring break thoroughly, snapping pictures at every hour, at every angle, in every setting, in every degree of intoxication.
They will return with sunburned shoulders and full memory cards. As they dab on the aloe vera, they’ll upload their pictures to Facebook and begin commenting on one another’s shots. Spring break will never really end.
The ubiquitous digital camera and its liberating delete button have turned life into one ongoing photo op.
George Eastman must be grinning in his grave. His lofty marketing campaigning has finally been realized.
‘A vacation wasted’
Eastman, the founder of Kodak, initially sold the camera on its ease of use. He introduced his patented film camera in 1888, coining the slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest.” The phrase stuck in the American lexicon.
Eastman articulated his goal “to make the camera as convenient as the pencil.” He wanted his cumbersome camera to feel accessible.
Eastman made advertising a major budget item, and it became a cornerstone of his business success. By the end of the 19th century, the company was spending $750,000 annually on promotion. Meanwhile, Coca Cola’s annual advertising budget was around $100,000.
Kodak’s ad campaign not only sold a product, but manufactured a necessity: souvenirs of life. To be a dutiful parent, to be a patriotic American, to be a responsive human, Kodak insisted, photograph your life.
Kodak’s early ads focused on holidays and milestones, tapping into a wellspring of sentimentality. Baby’s first Christmas. Grandma’s last. Miss it that is, miss the photo op and regret it eternally.
But the camera’s purpose was not limited to preserving memories for the future; it was about gaining a fuller experience of the present. This 1908 ad asserts, “A holiday without a Kodak is only half a holiday.”
This marked a revolutionary concept: Without a camera, life was no longer complete. The philosophy was articulated in even bolder terms in a 1900 ad insisting, “A vacation without a Kodak is a vacation wasted.” Why bother taking a trip if you’re not going to photograph it? The vacation’s value was realized by photographing it.
Kodak aggressively extended its reach, crafting the tagline, “All out doors invites your Kodak.” One 1911 ad pictures a girl sailing, her cheeks rosy, her hair blowing, her navy dress swaying. The text reads, “Let Kodak keep a picture record of your every outing.”
At the time, “every outing” marked a significant extension of the special event camera. A century later, michael kors handbags the digital camera does indeed record every outing.
Ellen DeGeneres poked fun at our intrusive camera habits while hosting the 2007 Academy Awards. During a live segment, she strolled up to Clint Eastwood, whipped out a slim digital camera and asked the woman at his side to snap their picture. DeGeneres promptly assessed the picture, deemed it inadequate and asked for another shot. Real life even a live broadcast of Hollywood’s biggest award show with Hollywood’s most venerable star gets put on hold so we can capture it on camera, DeGeneres suggested.
But the camera’s influence does not end there. It also converts non events into events, flashing a red carpet spirit in the most mundane places. In many cases, Neverman said, it’s not the pictures that help her remember an event; it’s the picture taking that makes an event memorable. Like the speech tournament she attended last year in Ames, Iowa, where she and her Honor Roll friends set this lofty goal: fill a memory card. “It was the game of the day,” Neverman said. And they won, posing with statues and strangers and having a grand old time.
Quantum theory holds that the act of observing an event can alter its outcome. Cameras represent that observational eye. Their presence alters the course of nearly every event, especially when young people are involved. Flash a saucy expression as you sip that Strawberry Mimosa. Lick the person next to you. Surprise. Emote. Perform. The sleek silver camera signifies an attentive audience, daring us, goading us on and challenging us to make an ordinary moment a Kodak moment.
‘Don’t waste film’
Before the first megapixel digital cameras hit stores in 1997, photography played michael kors handbags a smaller role in the average American’s life, neatly compartmentalized, relegated to special event albums and organize later shoeboxes, away from our computers and our daily thoughts. The camera surfaced reliably at graduations and anniversaries, vacations and reunions, capturing people in their Sunday best and conveying an air of stiff formality.
The group picture was a staple, the surest way to get the most value on film and photo development. Line everybody up better yet, stack them sideways, shoulders turned. Squeeze them in and smash little Timmy’s face into Grandma’s bosom. Get close uncomfortably close. You should be able to feel hot breath on the back of your neck. You should be tight up against the uncle in front of you. Airtight.
When it’s through, you may have lost your innocence but you will have stretched Aunt Sue’s dollar to the max. And she’ll be terribly pleased. She’ll drop her camera into the dark, sticky bottom of her purse, cut the cake and resume the celebration with added zeal.
In these pre digital days, trigger happy children required careful regulation. “What are you going to take a picture of?” mothers asked suspiciously, having already paid to develop photographs of the carpet and the sky and the back of the lens cap. “Just take one,” they’d insist. Parents were less afraid of damaging an expensive camera than of ruining a roll of film. “Don’t waste film” was an unquestioned rule, right up there with “Don’t eat yellow snow.”
Today, a digital camera makes a handy babysitter when bored kids are underfoot. Children are taking pictures at an incredibly young age. Two weddings I attended in 2006 featured camera crazed flower girls. They were each 3.
Note that Sophia is oblivious to the bride standing behind her. She’s holding Grandma’s camera, an expensive one, which she will soon drop twice, losing possession and crying until a resourceful aunt gives her a disposable camera from michael kors handbags the nearby Wal Mart (note Mia’s camera).
The criteria by which we once photographed have evaporated. That moment of hesitation “Is this a good enough picture?” or “Is this worth the cost of developing it?” no longer strikes. As a result, milestones blowing out birthday candles, donning Halloween costumes, gripping diplomas constitute a shrinking fraction of the photo album (which primarily exists on the computer now).
The Hollywood mantra, “Strike a pose,” has grown outdated. Young people pose unceasingly. Blowing kisses, making surprised faces, posing like Charlie’s Angels in front of the Spoonbridge and Cherry or a McDonald’s arch. Any setting suffices. “We take our cameras with us everywhere,” said my cousin, Sarah, 22. “And if someone says, ‘Get together,’ we do.”
The younger you are, the more reflexively you pose. The camera is now a prop in children’s lives, as ubiquitous as strollers and sippy cups.
And it’s something more. With its emotional substance and interactivity, that palpable give and take, the camera becomes a character in their young lives. Begun at birth, the relationship is built on hazy yet happy associations. My friend Emilie from St. Paul described her 8 month old son’s response to the camera on her blog: