Disposable Photos

We all know about disposable cameras, those plastic 35mm cameras we shoot once and throw away. (I’m so cheap that I reload them in a darkroom and shoot them again, but that’s a different story.)

Today, few people print photos anymore, much less frame them. We look at our snaps on our iPads, post them on Facebook, and get on to the next thing.

Today, most photo hobbyists are only making disposable photos: photos to be seen once or twice, forwarded around, and forgotten forever after 60 seconds.

Sad, isn’t it? Our attention is limited, so the more photos we make, the more we have to throw away, and none are ever great enough to be remembered for more than a few minutes.

The internet is all about making photos that will be forgotten a microsecond after the next photo pops up. Likewise, commercial interests all center on getting you to buy new gear every year, so photo learners read commercial media and are mislead into thinking better cameras make better pictures, and spend all their efforts buying better cameras instead of learning how to make better pictures.

When I shoot, I try to put at least a little effort into my works because I’m shooting for the wall. I’m shooting for the gallery and for the museum. I’m shooting for immortality: images which I hope will be remembered long after I’ve succumbed to the vigors of life.

Therefore, I shoot more slowly. I print, and I expect those prints to last a very long time. The Cibachromes and Fuji Super Gloss prints I struck 20 years ago are still as vibrant as when I printed them, and they’ve been out on walls in the daylight all this time.

You can always see prints. Digital files may or may not be visible — even if you wanted to see them — in 20 years as file formats, physical media and physical interfaces change, even if the storage media are still working.

So for what are you shooting? Are you trying to make images worth more than a quick glance, or are you just fooling around online?

I hadn’t thought of it this way before, but today, most people are only making disposable photos. Photos with no long-term value, and put in places where they pretty much disappear slowly over time.

The least you can do is print some photos. I was at Costco last night, and in less than 40 minutes I had a stack of Fuji Supergloss prints for 13¢ each. 60 years from now, these ought to look as good as they do today.


Scris de Ken Rockwell

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