Our love affair with instant photography has been around longer than you think.
Today, we live in the world of instant gratification and it’s digital technology that’s fuelling this perpetual desire. Our smart phones are part of us, seemingly as important as a limb or an organ. They are an alarm clock, a camera, a radio, a torch, a music system, a book, a method of payment, a television and a games console, but more important than all of this, they are our outward connection with the digital world. How did we ever survive without them?
Seemingly, we have become a race of people that have forgotten how to wait. If reviewed historically, we can squarely blame technology for the catalyst of this change. Over the last 200 years, photography has replaced the painting, telephone has replaced the posted letter, television has replaced the newspaper and the internal combustion engine has replaced the horse and cart. In all instances, time is the common gain – we are having to wait less.
Given this, should we be surprised that digital technology has led us to where we are today. Now, the expectation of digital media is that it should respond straight away, offer up immediate feedback and satisfy our needs instantly. The result – personal gratification without delay. This insatiable thirst for the here and now exists because we’ve created the environment and conditions to make it possible. Access to this world sits in your pocket. Your smart phone combined with network speeds and functions like Facebook and Twitter mean no more waiting. You can post you story immediately and woe betide those friends who don’t respond immediately!
One of biggest advances along the way has been with instant photography. Click, store and share in a string of seamless and effortless actions. Nothing satisfies our love and fascination more than sharing our experiences through images. And guess what? – no waiting required. The wedding, the holiday, the dog, the new car, the bloke down the pub and of course the now not so new phenomenon – the selfie – all instantly available to view.
However, our love for this media format goes back longer than you might think. In fact, photography in all its forms could be classed as ‘instant image creation’ whether you consider film and the developing process an interim step or not. It was and still does play a major role in shaping the media landscape and in turn influences our decisions, opinions and views of the world around us.
Today, we live with photography in mostly a digital format and apart from the odd enthusiast, film has mostly been consigned to the history cupboard. This seems to me to have encouraged a new generation of photographers whose attitude to the medium is very different. Because digital imagery is so accessible, cost free and easy to obtain, a more temporary and frivolous attitude to both taking and viewing pictures has emerged. Once upon a time, a print was for keeps, something to be cherished with people from days gone by carrying pictures of loved ones in their wallet. This sentiment has all but disappeared and it’s because we no longer invest any time into photography.
One of my enduring memories as a six year old was watching the development process of Polaroid film. It was indisputable magic happening right in front of my eyes. As the image faded into view there was a great sense of satisfaction that I had captured a moment in time from just a few minutes earlier. Of course, modern mobile devices offer this and so much more. Not only are the images superior in quality, but they can be edited on the fly and zapped around the world at the click of a button. However, for me there seems to be something missing, something less satisfying than taking a picture with the Polaroid camera. Looking back, I now realise the real excitement wasn’t in the click of the button or in the pride of the result – the magic was in the 90 second wait.
Digital overload and stress in the workplace have long been hot topics and there’s now a ton of research picking this apart. Navigating the stresses and strains of our evolving digital world will be a challenge forever more. The experts will tell you to punctuate your personal and working lives with periods of nothing. Our advice is, pick up your camera, go to your local park, forest or beach – and discover your 90 seconds of magic.