We’ve lived in this old house for nearly five years now, and still don’t have a lot of pictures on the wall. So today I uploaded the above photo of my granddaughter Ruby and ordered an 11×14 print at Walgreen’s. They had it ready in just under an hour. Then I went to Target and got a $22 frame. Now little Ruby rules the landing on the front stairs, clutching that little ornament the same way she did during our whole day at the beach. I love it.
I’m not sure why we hang pictures. Is it to impress our guests, or comfort ourselves during the long intervals between company? A bit of both, I suppose. But I guess the reason I’m posting this is to marvel again at how easy it’s gotten to make prints — at precisely the moment in technology when nobody feels the need to make them. It’s like we’re suddenly able to 3D-print cassette-tape players: cool in concept, but what’s the point?
I’d guess that 98 percent of all photographs taken in 2015 will never appear anywhere except Facebook or Instagram. That means almost no images will be ever displayed at anything larger than about 600 pixels wide. That’s less resolution than a ’70s-era Polaroid. No big deal, except that people keep buying expensive 24-megapixel cameras in the sincere belief that someday they’ll print at least one of those photos for a wall-size frame.
Back in the day, I had to develop my film by hand, wait hours for it to dry, then schedule another day to print the damned things in my light-leaky home darkroom. Every print had something wrong with it, but I still have every one I made. I get them out once in awhile and curse myself for not making more. I have maybe 200 in all — about the number of frames I shot during that single day on the beach with Ruby.
Even if you only take pictures with your smartphone, I’d encourage you to think about printing a few of them. In a digital, cloud-based existence, it’s kind of cool to have some physical evidence of the best moments. Memories fade and so will the prints, in time, but it’s nice to know the best times as more than pixels on a screen.