I reminisce as I scour through thousands upon thousands of images in my archives. There are slides, colour negatives, prints and digitised photos stored on hard drives.
As I do, I lament at what it now means to share a moment in time, often caught on a whim on a mobile device or a pocket sized digital camera.
I cast my mind back to the origins of photography, to 1839 when the first practical camera was available commercially and I am in awe of where we are today with the technology we have at our disposal.
I wonder at how many images have been captured on glass plate negative or film and at how many must be stored on memory cards today. Then there are the photographs which are lost forever through carelessness (back up your data) or not considered to be important enough to keep.
It is taking me some time but I am endeavouring to piece together the first 18 years of my daughter’s life in pictures. I am doing this as a keep-sake, a memento, for her as she enters her 18th year and beyond.
I look upon the earlier images and remember the care I took in making a decision when to hit the shutter button at just the right moment. It wasn’t only about capturing a moment in time it was also about the economics. I was thrifty in using each shot, knowing what the cost of processing and printing would be on a limited budget.
My camera loaded with a 35mm film, I had just 24 opportunities (sometimes 36) to take shots which in my mind I thought would convey a story. Whether that shot was of her serenely sleeping, oblivious to the outside world, or of her taking her first tentative steps, I would always consider the environment I was in.
I would consider the light, the reason for capturing the photo and importantly who might actually view the image. As a result of this care and attention to detail I have a collection of images which do tell stories and are priceless memories. Almost each invokes an emotion or triggers a memory. Nothing as instant as it is today. Often I would wait a week or more before I would have a film developed and printed. A virtual lifetime in this instant day and age.
Photographs can be personal or intended for a much broader audience. Images such as those used to document events often have many layers and it may not be for years, many years in fact, that their importance and significance is realised.
Recently, as I walked slowly around a photographic exhibition, I stopped at each image and took in the detail. I looked at the depth of field and the shadow and light of the mostly black and white images.
Each image was framed uniformly and hung perfectly in the gallery space of the Port Pirie Arts & Tourism Centre. The exhibition of the Smelter and Port Pirie’s rich history from 1910 – 1936 allowed those of us living in 2015 to reconnect with a bygone era and discover the story that shaped the City.
One image struck me; it was an aerial shot of Port Pirie and the photographer, Frank Hurley. Hurley was an Australian photographer and adventurer.
Some of his most iconic images were of those taken on expeditions to Antarctica with Mawson and Shackleton and those of the Australian Light Horse captured on distant battlefields as he served as an official photographer with Australian forces during both world wars.
I wondered what he may have being doing flying in the skies above the young Port Pirie. What type of aircraft was he in, who was the pilot? His unique style has produced many striking images. What strikes me the most though was his ability for his work to ‘speak’ to the audience.
Everyday images flash in-front of our screens in high resolution and low. Often they are tagged with interesting headlines or an attempt to describe a place, person or situation with a smart description in under 10 words.
Sometimes the images invade our personal space and our lives like unwelcome guests and are etched into our psyche no matter how hard we try to erase them. Then there are images which evoke wonderment, a stunning landscape, a beautiful human form, a wild animal in its natural habitat.
But what of the ‘selfies’, the ‘snap-chats’ and the hastily taken pictures of last night’s supper shared with all in sundry?
Will these images serve a purpose of speaking to history? Will these images be carefully catalogued and treasured across generations? Will these images allow us to look back and celebrate what we have or allow us to learn from our mistakes?
A moment in time is just that. Once spent, it is then gone forever.
If you must capture that moment in a photograph, then do so knowing that the piece of time is to be respected.
Know that it can never be recreated. Its uniqueness is sacred and probably only truly meaningful to a few.
Once captured and your decision to share is made I would ask that you think about the impact, the consequences and the effect it may have on others….if not now....then perhaps at another moment in time.