I was struck by Mat Honan’s recent article in Wired Magazine, The Quality of Your Smartphone’s Camera is Only Half the Picture. He writes:
Photos have become just as ephemeral as the moments we’re trying to capture.
His criticism is based in the dubious photo-organization found on an iPhone (in contrast to an Android) and the lower photo quality found on Android devices (compared to the iPhone). It seems both systems have something going for it, but they are both incomplete photo management systems, hence photographs as epehemera.
I have nearly 4,000 photos on my iPhone (as of Dec. 30, 2013). My first photo taken with this phone was on Dec. 5, 2012, which means that I took 4,000 photos with my iPhone over the last year. Granted, at least 10% of these photos are screenshots that the five-year-old took.
My photos are organized into five folders: camera roll, panoramas, videos, instagram, and starmatic. The iPhone does finally have an improved folder feature that I should begin using, but can I easily keep this folder structure off the iPhone? I didn’t even realize they had the option to create your own folders because initially this was not a feature. I also do not own a Mac, so any photo organization on the iPhone needs to translate to my PC. Currently, I have dropbox (using that referral link will earn me more space) set up to automatically upload camera photos from my iPhone when over a wireless connection. This gets photos onto my desktop, but does not retain any photo organization on my iPhone, so setting up folders on my iPhone seems rather pointless. I need photos to auto-sync to folders as soon as they are taken and for these folders to be retained as they travel to dropbox and ultimately to my desktop. I’ll have to do more research to figure out how to make this happen.
How do you organize smartphone photographs? Do you use an app? I’m hesitent to download yet another app. I’m kind of burned out on apps. I’d rather these tech companies just make a better product in the first place rather than just leaving it up to other developers, which then the consumers have to sort through. Don’t get me wrong, I like that anyone can create an app, but I think it also lets Apple and Google off the hook from creating better (even more user-friendly) products in the first place.
I’m getting a bit sidetracked by talking about how to make this photo organization happen. Let’s move back to this idea of photographs as ephemera.
Honan is correct in that without any rhyme or reason beyond place and date to photo organization, smartphone photos really are just pieces of ephemera. Apps like snapchat embody this idea of photos as ephemera. We moved from not having enough photographs to now having so many that we might as well have none because we can’t easily wrap our head (or our technology) around the sheer volume of photographs. Snapchat solves the organization problem by deleting the photo nearly immediately after it is shared. (I have never used snapchat, so I could be misunderstanding, how it actually works.)
How do we move photographs back to being photographs and away from being ephemera? How do we make photographs more permanent?
At this rate, my daughter will inherit not shoeboxes or scrapbooks full of a few thousand photos, but hardrives full of hundreds of thousand photographs. These photos won’t even have the opportunity to end up in some antique store and then on the wall of an Applebee’s restaurant.
I’m inspired by Jennifer Wilson’s intent to scrap less in 2014 because photographs are no longer scrapworthy just because they exist (such as in the days of film). Photographs are now scrapworthy because they are actually meaningful to a person. The challenge, then, is to develop our own personal philosophies as to what makes a photograph meaningful so that we can wade through the jpgs.