Apparently, humanity took about 1.4 trillion photos in 2020. That extraordinary figure resulted in the overall number of photographs being stored online to rise from 6.5 trillion to 7.4 trillion. These are big figures, too big to comprehend even, so here's a helpful comparison from MYLO.com – if you took one photo every second, it would take you over 45,544 years to snap the number of photos humans took in 2020 alone.
This digital stockpile – much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that’s now three times the size of France – is showing no sign of shrinking. In fact, according to research by Keypoint Intelligence, this figure is set to grow by over 10% year on year from here on out. It almost makes you question taking another photo ever, ever again. But what if, instead of stopping entirely (god forbid), we took a moment to remind ourselves why we do this: Why do we take photographs? Maybe then we might reconsider a few things about how we approach this amazing art form and what we do with the resulting images.
Photography is awesome. We at Lomography HQ are biased of course, but we are not alone in this opinion. A few conversations and a quick root around online will unearth the same heartfelt results time and time again: Photography makes us feel, it stops the endless march of time for just one second, it allows us to express ourselves, it lets us tell important stories, it enables us to share our most personal moments, it invites creativity and joy and it helps us hold on to precious memories.
In fact, several studies have examined the extent to which looking at and reviewing photos influences memory and have found that photos act as valuable retrieval cues that help people reactivate and remember their experiences but only when photographs are taken with real intention. It seems the photo-taking-impairment effect is strongest when we mindlessly click away, relying on the camera's memory system rather than our own – we have become accustomed to the idea that we can save endless snaps on a hard drive and look back at them ‘some other time’. This reliance has led to the erosion of both our life experiences and our memories. In a life where we can so easily lose touch, people, and our minds, we need to treasure photography and its ability to help us hold on to the good bits forever.
Forever is a long old time though, eh? In the grand scheme of space and time, photography is newborn, barely a spec on the horizon of time immemorial. So much has changed in just a few years, indeed the invention of the first camera, the development of film processing, not to mention the ‘digital revolution’ have all happened in the last 300 years alone, so how can we make sure these precious stills stay with us for the long haul?
The consensus is to archive online, store our shots in the cloud. For the entirely analogue among you, that means digitizing your photographs. We are not opposed to that, in fact, we positively encourage it. Creating a LomoHome means you can share your shots with the 1 million strong creative community of Lomographers across the globe and revel in your shared passion. But given the speed of technological advance – with no single raw format used across all the different camera brands and questions around what the file types of tomorrow might be – we can’t help but feel a more analogue approach to storage is also worth considering. Printing your photographs is almost future-proof – no computer crash, system failure, hard drive error, or technological advancement is going to destroy your printed photographs or get in the way of you handing them down to future generations as the unique and invaluable heirlooms that they are.
Despite the mind-blowing and ever-expanding online mountain of photographs, it is estimated that less than 1 out of 100,000 photographs taken today actually end up printed. Given that we all agree on the inherently emotional, personal reasons we all take photographs (even those that do this for a living), it seems we may at best be missing out on some genuine human connection and at worst be missing the point entirely. There is something gut-wrenching about imagining all those unloved images, gathering digital dust, destined never to see the light of day.
We believe in experimentation, freedom of expression, and capturing this thing we call life in all its inexplicable madness and glory. May you never stop exploring! But when you do take one of those shots that linger in your mind, capture the moment just right, and make your heart skip a beat, just make sure you treasure that negative and maybe even make a print – old school style. The photographs that really matter – keep them on you, print them out, carry them in your wallet, share them, stick them in a photo album, frame them... it's up to you, just as long as you keep looking at them.