I will start by saying many of my friends had the week off. To all of you, I hope you enjoyed it. I hope for some it was filled with family and friends and for others travel to never seen or not seen in quite a while places. For the later (and for the former for that matter) I hope you were able to take many pictures, which you will soon have the opportunity to share. I also hope you have not had much of an opportunity to do so yet as your week should have been spent far away from the internet.
Now I have a confession to make. I did not spend my week entirely away from the web. Having the days off, I decided to finally add tags and location markers to my photos that these may be shared. Over the course of two days I judiciously labored to organize my digital photos. Outside of some goofiness from my Picasa desktop app, the organization was the easy part. The dilemma was and is how to share these.
In one way I am fortunate. I have been around long enough to have many pictures of friends, family, and places. They may not be the best photographs, but they are the best subjects. I “usually” do not take pictures of my dinner or find a cat to photograph, if only because I came up in a time when you just didn’t do those things. This means most of my photos are pictures of that which is deeply moving and meaningful, at least to me.
It would be better if I had more of the mundane. That way I could just throw them up on Facebook and wait for the likes. (I mean who wouldn’t “like” a photo of a fried twinkie….don’t judge me; you eat those sorts of things on a week off.) With mostly the meaningful, I am left in the quandary of the what to and how to of sharing.
It is a dilemma most of us have. Our droids and iPhones are always in our pockets when the lovely and sacred moments occur of which our lives have many. We don’t miss the opportunity to capture these along with many moments that are barely lovely or sacred.
I am guilty as well. I have 9251 photos in the cloud most taken after the purchase of my first digital camera, a mid-nineties 2.1 mp that was a marvel of the day. Most, though meaningful to me and a few others, are of no interest to the majority of people who move in my life and certainly not to the denizens of the World Wide Web, even many I call “friends.” 9251 photos as of today, most now carefully tagged and located. Taking the photos was easy though organizing them proved somewhat harder. But the hardest thing of all is deciding how these may be shared, a dilemma caused by the ease at which this can be done.
A generation ago the matter was more decided. There was a ritual to it with “mostly” hard and fast rules. Film was expensive and you were careful with the subject matter. You fired the shot then had it developed and printed. Images were pinned down to page and carefully archived. The opportunity to show these off was a rare and discerning matter. Dads had a couple of school pictures of the kids in their wallets and soldiers received the scented letters with pictures of the girl back home minus the mirror and iPhone. Barring a collapse of digital technology, it is an era that will never return.
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to capture so many more memories than we did in the past and should take advantage of it. Granted we should not always have our smartphones out while on vacation, but the opportunity to photograph a special moment is a good thing and there is even a certain tenderness to the text that comes with the mirror selfie attachment. We should hardly be critical of the ease that digital technology has allowed us to visually document our lives. Our critique should rest not with our technology, but rather our psychology that allows us to share before we think on the matter.
What to share is a well worn debate on the web. Personally I come down on the side of discernment. Everyone who has photos to share simply needs to ask if others want to see it and if they are the ones to share it. The answers are not easy, even in the case of the mundane. Fact of the matter is foodies like to see each other’s deli sandwiches and cats are funny, so please don’t deprive the world of these. If burgers and calicos aren’t your thing, you can always block what you see from your friends. (Obviously I’m assuming Facebook here.)
The bigger questions always have to do with the memorable moments. Most of us do care about these, at least from “real’ friends. We may dislike some of the overload, but we do want to see the weddings, graduations, newborns, and faraway places. The problem is always how to share these moments and with whom. Do we have the right to share photos of others in a public way? The short and legal answer to that question at least in America is yes as long as you were the one who took the photo and the person photographed had no reasonable expectation of privacy. But this is a digression. What I am speaking of here is the “if we should,” rather than “can we” as the ability to do a thing does not mean it is right to do so.
It gets tricky. Our stories intersect and our moments are shared. We usually post photos because we are invested in the lives of those in our photos. That returns me to my dilemma. Does my desire to show off my friends or craft my image in a way to include my presence among beautiful people allow me to archive their lives? To a very small extent it does, but the particulars of the matter become convoluted involving the likes of segregating Facebook friends into lists or placing photos in locked down albums on sites like Smugmug that allow for uber-privacy. This also means if I am going to go a more public route to photo sharing, I have to know when it is appropriate to ask permission to post a picture of someone and when it is just inherently okay to do so. Historically discerning that has kept my photos off Facebook, a place where resharing and tagging can quickly turn a photo shared with fifty into the viewing pleasure of a thousand. Granted that can happen on other sites as well, but photo specific sites do privacy better or at least make the means of privacy more obvious. Still they are hardly perfect, so my dilemma remains.
9251 photos to share, but with whom and how. I have some ideas, but no perfect solution as no perfect solution exists. In the meantime I have a lot of meaningful and mundane moments in the cloud waiting to fall to earth or at least coming to your corner of the web.