The Sentimental Value of Photographs in the Digital Age
- By Abi Winder @ WPO
- 3 comments
In this modern era in which technology is advancing faster than you can say the word the word “go”, digital cameras have become accessible to even the most technophobe of people; a fact that we at WPO are keen to embrace. But what does this mean for the sentimental value associated with photographs and how does it carry across from traditional photographic prints to digital photography?
At a recent family gathering where the majority of the guests were over the age of 60, it struck me that nearly all of them were using a digital camera to document the day, it must be said some of them with greater skill than others. For most of them the quality of the photograph is not of great importance, rather the record of the day is what mattersl; a 50th Wedding Anniversary attended by family who only come together every few years.
In stark contrast to this contemporary phenomenon, a second cousin of mine made my day by showing me a photograph taken at the turn of the 20th Century of three relatives who are long deceased. The three men were my grandfather’s father, his grandfather and great-grandfather; in other words, my great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-grandfather! Even though I know little about the men in the photograph, I found the photograph intriguing and somewhat moving, because I recognised the sentimental value it holds to my grandfather. Additionally, I felt that the sentimental value held by this photograph was heightened by the fact that there aren’t many such photographs in our family as cameras were few and far between at the time.
This got me thinking about whether the photograph as an object of sentimental value is diminishing in this era of image and information overload. I wondered how many of the guests at this celebration would go away and print a photograph from the day, hand it down to a younger relative who might take it along to another such event in years to come. Perhaps none, but that doesn’t mean to say these photographs won’t be passed on. Gone are the days of the family photo album, they sit on a shelf or in the attic gathering dust, replaced by the digital photo frame and online albums. People are adapting to these vast changes; families are arguably brought closer together by modern communication technology, with digital photo sharing playing a huge part in that.
Although it seems a great shame that old photographs that did once hold sentimental value can be bought for pennies in charity shops, perhaps this waste is overcome by the digital existence of a photograph. The digital photograph may have sentimental value but only becomes an object in its own right when someone makes a decision to print it, but that doesn’t mean that the sentimental value of photographs has not been lost through the advances in digital photography. Rather it has become easier for people of all ages and all levels of photographic skill to obtain these sentimental photographs.
So what’s the moral of the story... Firstly, hold on to the old photographs you have because you never know how much they could mean to someone. Secondly, share your digital photographs with your family, friends and even the rest of the world through channels such as WPO. And finally, if you are an advocate of digital photography with thousands of photos on your computer, make sure you back up your hard drive!
Do you have any old photographs with interesting stories that you’d like to share with us? If so, please leave your comments below as we’d love to hear them.