Pardon my rant, but ...

My previous blog prompted a response in MacTheForum from reader ColinC, who said he’d forgotten about printing. I think a lot of us have. And it kind of worries me. Here’s why.

Do you remember the joy of discovering your parents’ lives when they were young? This happened on that day they pulled out a shoebox full of little square prints made with their Box Brownie. Perhaps you saw yourself for the first time as a two year-old? It was great, wasn’t it? Your folks shared stories about their escapades as youngsters and you realised, perhaps for the first time, that they weren’t all that different to yourself. Had it not been for the welcome responsibilities of raising a family, those guys with the parent tags might be as crazy and carefree and full of wanderlust just like you are. Rebels, perhaps, who shocked their parents with the same ferocity that you do.

I remember this day. It was an epiphany. I suspect many older readers will likely remember such a day. I fear that those who grew up with digital photography never will. This fear prompted a rant in response to ColinC, and for those of you who missed it, I’m going to share it again here. Here goes, with some extra bits.

Printing isn't the challenge it used to be (or as much fun) when it involved stinky chemicals and fumbling about in the dark, but it is still rewarding to see a beautiful print of a great image. It’s also great to have family snaps in frames, up on the wall or on a shelf where you can see them every day. Or in an album. I think it’s vitally important we don’t abandon the practice and I worry that a lot of people are, quite without intention, neglecting the value of the printed image.

Sure, we have the cloud. We have places to share photos. We can show our pics to a global audience. But will those same pics be tangible in 30 years' time? Internet sharing is great, but impermanent when measured in decades.

I think we face the possibility of a future without photo albums. A future in which a whole generation forgot to print anything. No shoeboxes lurking in the attic full of memories. All our photos lost either through negligence from not renewing storage media, carelessness through forg etting to back up, or worse — stupid privacy laws, in which a generation of parents were rendered impotent by zealous sporting officials preventing them from taking snaps of their kids on the field of play because, you know, kids playing sport is pornographic. And, due to the habit of assuming everyone is a pornographer, nobody gets to capture memories. Unless they're accredited. And paid a fee.

I simply cannot come to grips with the notion of not being allowed to take a photo of my own child competing in a sport or performing on stage. I’ve had sporting officials tell me not to take photos because minors may have their privacy compromised. I’ve told them there’s no law in Heaven or Earth that will stop me from taking a snap of my kid and if they want to involve the police they are welcome to do so.

So far, no police have been involved, as long as I promise not to take photos of other kids. It’s a hollow promise. Soccer, for instance, is not a solo sport. Of course, it’s not difficult to approach a coach or other school official and explain what you’re doing and offer some pics for the school web site or yearbook. I’m not trying to encourage civil disobedience. Yet on more than one occasion, even with the green light from officials, some idiot in fear of repercussions has stepped in to prevent me from shooting.

As a matter of disclosure, I’ve also derived income from junior sports photography, shooting in conjunction with my daughter, so I’ve played this game on the offensive and the defensive, if you get my drift.

Anyway. We embraced digital photography with open arms. And so we should have. Film-based shooting was environmental vandalism. The carbon footprint generated by the film manufacture and processing industries was massive. Add to it the footprint of the transport industry and, well ... you get the picture. Pun intended.

But in the process of moving to digital and because of the ease of sharing images electronically, we have to some degree — either through abandonment of the long-held value of a printed image or through the fear and loathing that prevents us from taking photos we will come to cherish — managed to enslave ourselves to our computers and iPads and iPhones and digital photo frames and the internet.

So I implore you on two counts:

First, have a sound back-up plan for your photos, and don’t forget that storage media will fail. Some media will take longer than others, but they will fail. So remember to monitor media and recover your images to fresh media as required.

Second, start printing. Not everything, of course. It’s too expensive. But every now and then, take a look through your photos and pick out the keepers. I’m not talking about the prize-winners. I’m talking about the snaps. The ones that one day your children and grandchildren will pick out of a shoebox and hold in awe and realise that, once upon a time, you were young and cool and hip and fun and funky and ... well ... not who they thought you were.

Discuss this with me in MacTheForum!

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