Remember The Polaroid
Somewhere in the mid-80s, I remember chastising my son for taking a Polaroid picture of one of his uncles and a family friend. I would have hit him in the head with the camera, but my personal brand of fathering saves all strikes with flying objects for the field and for furthering my coaching initiatives. I firmly believe if a kid is goofing off during practice, he deserves a wake-up call via flying mitt, lacrosse stick, or what have you. But, I couldn't do that with a Polaroid camera circa 1985; it was a piece of high-technology and it needed tender care.
ANYWAY! The reason I was irate was because he had wasted a picture. The uncle was just there for the free food and to show off his new Mercedes (...If you can figure out that contradiction, let me know. We never could :) And the family friend was a pain in the ass that no one actually liked. Both were ugly bastards.
But I would not need to scold my son today. There's no such thing as a wasted picture. The cell phone and its ever-present camera with infinite memory has transformed the photo into something easily disposed or forgotten. The aura of a photo is officially dead. It is no longer formal or sacred or any of that stuff. Only its technological clarity is inspiring. The subject is almost solely an excuse to use an amazing new tool.
The Age Of Phone Reproduction
Walter Benjamin traced the effect of technology and the mass production of imagez on the experience of art. He argued that the 'aura' of a piece of work is demystified. Benjamin (1936) writes: "in prehistoric times, by the absolute emphasis on its cult value, art was, first and foremost, an instrument of magic." But fast forward through the "Age Of Mechanical Reproduction" and The Sistine Chapel is now 'experienced' by everyone. No longer do we have to be a pilgrim to see the great workz of art. We can see Michelangelo's painting in a book, on a webpage, or on our phone!
But Benjamin argued that with all this loss of context -- the smell, the church, the walk through the Apostolic Palace, etc. -- comes a loss of spirit. So, too, with its ease and convenience the cell phone offers in terms of taking photographz, an occasion may be dimmed -- or worse, everything becomes an occasion.
We've all had to sit through the slideshow -- virtually or in person -- of the myriad pictures of the same sleeping baby, the same vacation spot, or the same birthday dinner.
When I was a small kid in the 1950s, I wouldn't have been able to carry the camera, much less run around and shoot pics of two dipshits at a party. In fact, we would dress up, huddle properly, and stand up straight. The photograph not only marked an occasion, but, in and of itself, was an occasion. There was a spirit in the bulb's flash. There was magic.