Photographs have been invaluable in the communication of information since the photographic process became a reality in 1836 thanks to Louis Daguerre. Photos have documented all of life's important events: weddings, births, graduations, vacations — the list is endless. And photos have always been important in publications; but they've been the bailiwick of professionals who had the vision, equipment, talent, and budget to create and reproduce their work. For amateurs, photography publication choices were limited to photo albums or slide shows. And I don't know about you, but I used to wait to develop film until I had enough to make the trip worthwhile, and usually by then, I had no idea what was on the rolls of film any longer.
Things have definitely changed with the invention and proliferation of digital cameras that keep getter better and cheaper. Would it surprise you to discover that according to a recent U.S. study, 27% of photos and videos are now captured on smartphones? And with today's social media applications, anyone can create and illustrate custom content almost instantaneously. With instant upload apps to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and photo galleries — you can easily post photos online straight from your smartphone and invite friends and family to share the experience or adventure as it's happening. "Wish you were here" has an entirely new meaning now, doesn't it?
Facebook's 800 million users upload, on average, more than 250 million photos per day.* And to get some idea of the explosion in the sheer number of uploaded photos, take a look at this article, which shows an installation by Erik Kessels looking at the future of photography by featuring printouts of all the images uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour period. It's pretty mind blowing. (I know they're making a artistic point, but I shudder at the decadent use/waste of all that paper with our focus on conservation.)
Do some people overshare? Of course. But some things never change — they overshared before social media, inviting you over to watch the hundreds of photos of their trip to the wilds of downtown Omaha, Nebraska. Personally I enjoy knowing what my friends and colleagues are up to, and I love discovering new places and things from their posts and photos.
Social media sites = Photo repositories
I think it is more than fair to lay the responsibility for the photo explosion at the feet of social networking. And think of all of the benefits:
- No more boxes of unsorted photos to trip over
- You know exactly where your friends and family are at all times and what they're doing
- Aunt Edna can friend you on Facebook to share her Omaha photos — you don't have to sit through the slide show.