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Not all boomerangs are created equal

In the age of Snapchat and Instagram, Shivani Shukla looks at the continued importance of taking, and keeping, photographs.

It is a human tendency to hold on to memories and find ways in which to chronicle our lives. Even the earliest people left a trail of their everyday lives and today we marvel at the Egyptian pyramids and climb Uluru to have a glimpse of preserved scenes of their existence. Every act in history is crystallized in one form or the other and more often than not in visual forms, that of paintings, portraits and since the advent of cameras, as photographs. This was, and is, a way to immortalize ourselves.

Visual recounting in the form of photojournalism is still the most effective form of storytelling.

Coming to modern times, the most pressing world news, as well as the most enticing geographical discoveries come in the form of photos before words. It has been this way since the 20th century when photography became a mobile act and even the most remote of places were connected to the rest of the world through photographs brought back from explorations. The world first saw Japan in colour because of Eliza Scidmore’s photographic records. Even as the mode of distribution of images has changed from prehistoric modes to print media in the days of World War II to social media platforms now encapsulating pictures from the Syrian War, visual recounting in the form of photojournalism is still the most effective form of storytelling.

We can all be labeled memory connoisseurs, saving the best of ourselves on the virtual dimension.

On the topic of everyday photography: remember the time when one whole vacation was captured in thirty-six snaps on your Kodak and buying more rolls meant a considerable extra expense? That era is forgotten by most, even thought that was the case merely a decade ago. The world has changed in more ways than was thought possible by the Kodak-wielding person. The prevalence of camera phones has made the task of recording a moment a mere trifle. This act of instant gratification has become more habitual than it is pleasurable. We can all be labeled memory connoisseurs, saving the best of ourselves on the virtual dimension.

However crude this may sound, the fact of the matter is that we as a society have become more photo-centric and this is egged on by an unparalleled rate of advance in digital photography, with better cameras available at your whim every second. A transient presence has become more of a norm than actually noting a memory. A retrospective stance on things could motivate one to go back to the old ways of simply being, and not being simply “for the ‘gram”. On a personal note, even though I am of the belief that all representations of things are inherently abstract, I do believe photographs have the ability to convey the truth like no other form, and have shaped the history in crucial ways on more than one account.

Chronicling the past allows you to relive moments. Memories, individual or global are still preserved in the modern age, just in different media forms. The key to preserving our pasts is to strike a balance between mindfully living in the now and living in the now to be mindful of it later on. When the noise from meaningless imaging clears, meaningful photographs still have the most dramatic effect on us.