Monday, December 7, 2009

Not A Moment Unsung

Yesterday my digital camera died - I killed it, to be more precise, by accidentally dropping it on a hard concrete floor - and today I feel incomplete. I picked it up on April 25, 2008, and in the time since I've taken more than eleven thousand photos and videos with it. The vast majority of the Public Domain Photography photos I've posted here over the last year came from it. I've been able to document my world with it, to preserve old and fresh perspectives alike while the capability still exists to record them. Now, everything that passes by just passes by, unable to be appreciated and soon forgotten.

Personally, I can't abide that. There are too many fleeting things in this world to go uncaptured, too many pieces of life that deserve to be remembered. Look at the present gulf between the film photography past and the digital present. While almost every house have albums upon albums of vacation, holiday, and family photos, most of these are left sandwiched between the pages and rarely ever see the light.

Other times it's difficult to find a photograph of something that's since been destroyed. For example, a while ago the city of Barrie demolished the historic Barrie Arena, home of hockey since the 1930s, so that a new fire station could be built on the site. It was demolished in 2008, well into the era of digital photography, but nevertheless only a handful of decent photos of the place exist online. UrbEx Barrie has the best ones I've found. Two photos out of a seventy-four year history. I have just as many photos of a soft drink called Leninade, the last photos I took off my camera before its untimely death.

The camera that photographed this tall, sparkling glass of Leninade is now as dead as Communism.

The present proliferation of cameras, in the form of cell phones and digital point-and-shoots alike, may help to end this. Whereas in the past cameras were bulky, had limited capacity and film development required a significant investment - a friend of mine still has fifteen or so undeveloped rolls of film from a trip we took to the United Kingdom in 2004, because he couldn't justify the cost of developing it since I'd taken a digital camera - modern cameras can hold hundreds of pictures that can be disseminated around the world cheaply and easily.

Nevertheless, just because capacities are there, it doesn't mean that the documentary inclination is. People generally photograph things that interest them personally, and I don't think the documentary inclination doesn't interest the average person. I certainly don't know anyone else offhand who would think to collect photographs of city buses or station nameplates in the Red Line. How many people, upon landing in Los Angeles, would practically salivate at the prospect of riding the Gold Line Extension?

Not everyone's doing it. That's as good a reason for me to keep on with it, no matter how many cameras fall along the way.

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