Photographs and their Value degeneration

I love photographs, especially old photographs where I was a little toddler, handled by different uncles and aunts, grandpas and grandmas and of course parents in different poses and backgrounds. As is the case with most of us, I too have a huge album of photographs consisting of the entire family – father’s side, mother’s side – probably from the time my mother and father were kids. The favorites are the ones with my cousins with almost all of them with crazy poses – the one where I am eagerly looking to eat the cake, while my similar-aged cousin of 8 was trying to celebrate his birthday, the one in the fields of my village where I had put on my uncle’s sunglasses with almost nothing but a short on, the one where three cousins of mine were fighting with each other as to who should play the car race and many many more. I am sure everyone has his/her own set of photographs and lovely memories.

Each photograph had a story. Even the very old faded ones, torn ones of the 1950s and 1960s had a story. These stories connected to another set of stories and and them to another and this whole series made for a very interesting conversation, and given the time, the discussions would go on for a long long time. Some of these photographs also had counter-stories – one uncle would have one story connected to one photograph and an aunt would have a conflicting story with the same photograph. And therein, ensues a debate which is even more fun and battle-lines are drawn for a discussion which could cover an entire evening. During the good ol’ days, a family photograph meant an event which covered the entire evening. We had to get dressed up very neatly, some elder would seek appointment with the photographer and we all went, the entire family walking down the street to the photographer’s shop. It was an event everyone looked forward to, a merry event – and considering the cameras of those days, you always had the photographer grumbling – aahh, little this side, little that side, don’t tilt your head to the left, lift your head up, and then a click. Everyone waited for three days for the photographer to deliver the photograph with bated breath and then would converge to discuss the pros and cons of the photograph, interspersed frequently by how bad the photography was and promises by anyone and everyone that the next photographer should be a better one.

I look at the recent photographs too – the ones before the digicams became widely prevalent and we all had to expend probably 250 bucks to get a film roll and then get it washed (as they used to call it). Every photograph taken was precious and there were very few and far in between. The ones of Intermediate and Engineering immediately come to mind – and even today, when friends meet up, the discussions about some of the photographs go on and on – from ‘how in the world did I wear such a dress for such an important occasion?’ to ‘how stupid was that’ – but more often than not, feel happy about some memories which remained.

In the current scenario, where everyone with a digital camera thinks himself as an expert in photography (not to mention his favorite hobby as photography), the value of photography probably might have gone up but the value attached to those photographs has drastically dwindled. An age where digicams are inexpensive, the photographs taken are reviewed immediately and the cost attached to each photograph is next to zero – the photographs in itself have lost most of their significance. The number of photographs taken has multiplied, while the importance of each photograph has probably been divided by infinity.

The number of photographs taken for any trip of 3 days is close to 400 (I along with my friends were guilty of this!). It goes into our hard drive after one, probably two looks and then….bham! I have no clue when we would open the folder containing these photographs again. 400 photographs – that probably would be the number of photographs taken in a marriage function in the old days – each photograph carefully treasured in an album, the album in itself covered in some cloth and each time the album was taken out, it was a moment of occasion, of stories and counter-stories again. Not so now. I am also saddened at the state of younger toddlers today. They would have no means to hear some stories and scenarios connected to their photographs – the number of photographs would have been so many in number, he would just see them as a movie – no narratives, no chronicles, plain old one threaded seamless movie (to quote an example again, my colleague has 200 photographs of his 2-week old daughter – I rest my case!). With handycams too within the reach of most of the population, the children of today needn’t even connect the digital photographs – it is in a movie format alright!!

Poor young toddlers of today – they would never know what value a half-torn photograph holds neither will they know how valuable a family photograph is. Probably, they don’t have time for all such things in this uber-competitive world….Really??


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