Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Farewell my Photograph

Photography succumbs to the digitalization of life: as I have, as you have, as music and friendships and sex and practically every true pleasure but food has. Sitting here in analogue land, with my fingers and brain cells plugged in to digital country, I come across reports of the lamentable demise of color photography. Note that this is a misnomer. It's not color photography (verb) which is disappearing...no strange mad scientist has sapped the world of pigment. But color photographs are apparently not long for this printed world. Our old friend the polaroid faces an even more rapid extinction. The loyal group "SAVE POLAROIDS" wants to save your yellowed plastic-backed instant prints. Not only yours, but those of the world. Writers compare the flippy objects to Proust's Madelines.

Ah, Madelines for the starving artist...

Changes in the category of memory may indeed be the key effect of our visual digitalization. Recently, I stumbled across some dreadful photos taken years ago of a friend now passed away. These objects, printed, suddenly became so transient: one last visual record. The digital photo takes reproductive permanence to a level beyond. There, I might have replicated my friend a thousand times, and then casually deleted what I didn't like. It would have been a more constructed memory, selected to be flattering and charming. As it stands, it's real.

* A regular film print has object value, but lacks permanence or instantaneous value.
* A polaroid has object value and instantaneous value, but lacks permanence.
* A digital image has permanence and instantaneous value, but lacks object value.

I fall fully into the trap of constructing my own reality-memory when it comes to the facebook photos tagged in my name. I shamelessly delete things I find unflattering, or things I don't want to remember. And so, I forget them. In fact, a friend of mine wrote on her profile that she was "morally opposed" to the rejection of unattractive photos. Whereas I skew my image of myself, and other's image of me, to a positive construct from my own mind.

Thoughts on photography and memory in the digital age. Here: the too-appropriate credits of a great film.

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