Friday, April 13, 2012

Do we actually cherish photos?

533, 345, 478 , approaching thousand...

The numbers are the sizes of the photo albums posted on Picassa, Facebook and other online photo repositories that I am privileged to see. The sizes are colossal, the events are diverse - friends meetup, baby shower, baby born, marriage, random trip, random clicking, etc. On any normal non-album viewing day, I probably have to register about 40-50 images of the surrounding milieu on my retina (I am not going to scientifically prove the validity of this claim). But 300s and 400s is a tad too many, good enough to create retinal chokage. I can't help but feel exhausted around the 40th or 50th photo (see what I did there?). To alleviate boredom, I then switch to thumbnail view of the album to quickly scan through photos. That way I can completely ignore one set of similar looking photos and quickly shift focus to the next set of similar looking photos. Our eyes are so powerful to grasp these differences, you see. In one instance, a friend of mine actually posted their honeymoon photos which had detailed shots of the interior of the cottage that they were staying in, including the restrooms. Apparently, when they entered it, it was all so neat and nicely laid out. But let's not kid ourselves here, this is no Burj Al Arab's Royal Suite.

After the viewing session is over, I get pings on chat - "Machi, endha photo irukkardhuliye range?" or "Check 186th photo, andha scenery chance eh illa" or "Dei..andha photo la avan semma comedy". The responses to such questions/observations undoubtedly lie in the assumption of me having had a whole-hearted viewing of the album and that the answers are at the tip of my typing hands. But I know that's not true. So, then begins the unenviable task of second-viewing of the album, looking for specifics. Especially the questions concerning photo numbers are tricky because online albums don't number their photos in the thumbnail view(a feature which ideally you would want). So, now it turns into a math problem that I have to solve.

"Hmm...5 photos in a row,  so.. 5 3s 15, 5 7s 35, 37th row, okay 186.."

Let's set the facts straight, we are in an era of uninhibited clicking. It's so mandatory these days that you aren't ready to buy a phone that doesn't have a camera in it(the phone-activity on the phone forms hardly 1% of its usage). The point-and-shoot-ers and DSLR-ers are running amok with the things that they can do, especially the latter, whose actions were hilariously captured by a witty blogger. And the results are there to see.

"Cha..I shook it..". Click.
"I closed my eyes..". Click.
"I want my side view..". Click.
"I am not in the centre..". Click.
"Align me in the corner..". Click.
"Need another one, just the bust". Click.
"Machi..Semma kevalama irukku..". Click.
"One more..". Click. "Just one more.." Click. "Last one..". Click.

If a professional photographer is hired to capture the essence of an occasion, you would expect him to go about doing this business of serial-clicking and finally filtering out the ones that captured the best moments. Logical indeed. But regular lazy people that we are, we don't have the patience to sit and sift through all those that we have clicked. So, as long as my Picassa account allows, I shall just load it up with all that I have clicked and when I am out of space, I shall create another google account and start doing the same. I shall also send these albums to my friends and families for their viewing, ignoring the fact that the sheer number of photos don't cover up for the lack of any sense of aesthetic appeal that the album might have or the weariness that the repetitive nature of the photos might cause.

This is not a polemic owing to my not being a part of some of these photo albums, though I don't deny it partly is. But let's face it, how many of us are so full of enthu to repeatedly look at albums of events that even you were a part of? Most of our viewing happens during the trip/event itself on the 2.5'' - 3.5'' camera LCD screen and towards the end we are already full of it. And finally, it's all "I'll just go home and dump everything online".

I sometimes wish we get back to the good old roll-camera days when albums were a physical possession not a virtual one. We took photos because we wanted to not because we simply could. There was a price associated with photos, literally and figuratively. But now, it's a case of abundant availability resulting in negligible value. There's simply no time nor interest to put an effort into making an album minimal these days, convey it's essence to the people who you want to send it to. It's not as if we did all this before the advent of the digital camera. We didn't have to maybe because we didn't we an option but then we were content with whatever limited number of images we could create. Why can't any event be captured in 40 to 50 different frames? Isn't that enough to gauge how it went and check out the people and the places they were in?

For now, photos is just "yet another online thing we do".

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