When my father wanted to upload a picture, so to speak, the process was a long alchemist's art of chemistry, sensory deprivation, and (expensive) trial and error. I would watch him work in our house’s darkroom, discretely tucked away in a narrow room behind the garage, as he would transfer paper from tub to tub of liquid developers, stoppers, fixers, and running water.
Seeing the image that he, or I, had briefly seen through a lens as the fleeting moment was captured then seemingly appear before my eyes was magic to me; I was rediscovering a moment in the past that would, from then on, be immortalized on this sheet of black on white. Today the process has been made infinitely easier since digital technology had been commercially introduced over two decade ago.
The accessibility of photography today has evolved in its cultural importance and relevance that my father’s generation of photographers could not have fathomed. We consume and produce a large amount of visual media today because we can, with smartphones and hefty DSLRs. And it’s for the best.
Photography immortalizes the past for our future generations. Our children will see even the mundane, though hardly trite, details of our lives captured on our smartphones. They will experience enriching moments we filmed on the sidewalk that put a smile on our face that day, or shocked us into disbelief, or inspired us enough to share a memorable moment.
Simultaneously, it grounds us in the present, in the lives of our fellow humans around the corner or across the ocean as we collectively document our quotidian life.
And yet while our social newsfeeds overfloweth with filtered pictures of our lunches, new shoes and of our pets, professional photography has moved deeper into the realm of art; and therefore, become more necessary than ever.
Professional photographers put themselves in front of interesting things, and capture still images of the world we might otherwise find inaccessible. This kind of photography chronicles history, expands our world view, shows the horrors of war, the humanity of humans in foreign countries, the colours and splendour of continents not our own. We are invited into places other people call home, introduced to people they call family, and the lands they call theirs.
Modern photography is not a dying practice, but one that is changing hands; and quickly. It’s being appropriated by the masses, and perfected by the artists. So, keep your smartphones handy. Take lots of pictures, even of your cats and dogs, because you are chronicling history – at the very least, for your future children.