We're in trouble. I'm not talking about global warming. I'm not talking about the economy. I'm talking about photos, and yes, we are seriously in trouble.
One might argue that photography is a technology that is only improving, with sharper resolution, increased mobility for the photographer and storage capabilities at once greater and smaller than we could have imagined. Well, this is all true, but I think this advancement will be the downfall of future history.
Let's look at it from a textbook perspective. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln was photographed giving a landmark speech at Gettysburg. In 2012, Billy The Student was photographed unconscious in his front yard. See the problem?
When scholars look back 200 years from now, think of all the pictures, digital, physical or whatever, that they will have to sort through. Is this a picture of the United States' first African-American president? Oh no, it's just another paparazzi photo of Kristen Stewart taking out her trash. Looking for the government revolution in Libya? Sorry, all we could find was the cast of Jersey Shore punching each other.
This raises the question: What exactly is worthy of a photograph? What deserves to be preserved in history? I mean, we are theoretically talking about forever. But based on what appears in social media, apparently that really good piece of chocolate cake you posted yesterday on Instagram fits that category. This age of being able to photograph anything at any given moment makes me feel like we all think we're that special. Or that we want to be that special. We think we are worth the preservation in history. Well, I hate to bring anyone down with a newsflash here, but we're really not.
Now before you jump on my case, I am probably more guilty of this than most of the people reading this article. As of the time of writing this story, on Facebook alone I have over 1,400 pictures tagged of myself. On my phone I have taken 5,465 photos in the span of three years. And these are just the photos I have on hand.
This. Is. Ridiculous. I have no excuse for the mass of Grant and Grant-authored media other than "Well, I had the technology to do it."
It's over-saturation. It's overwhelming. It's pointless. When are humans going to reach their limit? I really do not have an answer to this. It's not really an issue people would think about without a little persuasion. Maybe one day the world will have so many photos that we won't know where the photos begin and reality ends. It will be like a sick Narnia-type world of self-obsession and promotion, only instead of entering through a wardrobe, the portal would be a giant Instagram filter.
Meanwhile, more than 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every single day, according to an article from mashable.com. To do some quick math, that is 91.25 billion photos a year. Then almost a trillion photos in a decade. And these figures are only relevant if no new people joined Facebook during those ten years.
I wonder if in ten years we will have cured cancer. I guess we'll just have to wait for the news to filter out via word-of-mouth since the breakthrough that some scientist will post on Facebook will be swallowed whole in a sea of pet pictures and Nike shoe spam ads. The ironic part about all of this is the growing trend of using filters on photos to — dare I say it? — saturate them. Somehow I feel the irony is lost on most people.
Grant Moore is a junior film, television and digital media major from Dallas, Texas.