Wednesday, 25 August 2010
What does Martin Parr know?
With a Bank Holiday looming the Guardian printed some advice from Martin Parr about how to take better holiday photographs. I really like the main thrust of the piece that your photo collection should not just be positive propaganda of family life, but should also reflect the fed-up children and moments when your holiday doesn't seem quite so good. Now that we're (almost) all shooting digitally this makes sense. With film each shot cost money, but taking more digital pictures is effectively free, and even if you fill a memory card new ones are cheap and a re-useable resource.
The last paragraph of the piece, however, doesn't fit in with how we use photography now.
And the other thing you must do is print them. We are in danger of having a whole generation – and this will continue into the future – that has no family albums, because people just leave them on their computer, and then suddenly they will be deleted. You have to print them and put them in an album or a box, otherwise they could be lost. And write captions. You might think you are going to remember what is happening in a picture, but you probably won't in 10 years' time.
I don't agree with the need to print. I'll admit that there is something satisfying about handing round a packet of 36 photos, but with laptops, smartphones, iPads and digital photo frames we're always close to a screen to view images in a new shared way. We've got drawers full of packets of Jessops prints, and a box under the bed with more. I definitely browse the old photos on my laptop a lot more than I rummage around in the box under the bed.
Parr's statement that "people just leave them on their computer, and then suddenly they will be deleted" is a bit odd, or maybe badly subbed. How will they suddenly be deleted? I'm no more likely to delete the photos off my computer than I am to chuck the wallets of 6x4s in the bin. Yes, my hard drive might fail, so I run back-ups. I'm not a back-up zealot, I don't have a daily or even weekly routine, but I do make back-ups and especially make the effort after loading a big new batch of photos from the camera such as after a holiday. I also have a Flickr account where my favourite photos go. As a paid account holder I could put all my pictures on the cloud for a full remote back-up which would be neat.
As for writing captions, well I used to scibble a not on the wallet of prints with a date and location (Northumberland 1994), but the meta-data with digital photos exceeds that by a country mile. Date and time, camera used and then in iPhoto I can tag who's in the pictures and add geo-location data too. I can find digital images very quickly, and have "Smart Albums" in iPhoto that help sort the 8,898 items (16.3GB of data since you asked) into usefully small collections.
I make a trip once a year to the photographer in town to get a few prints made to enter in the village show. That's it, the rest is staying digital. Am I right or wrong?