The Commodification of your Memories

Pīrāgi and Coffee

I love photographs. I love instagram. I love seeing pictures of beautiful cities, sunsets, my family and new additions to the family.

Not too long ago, the family would have a camera. Usually an easy to use point-and-click device that had film in it. Some families were a bit lardy-da with a SLR and took nice looking photos. A family might take a role or two of film on holidays. A single photograph might be taken at a family picnic or a first day of school. Once the 24 shots had been taken, the film would be taken to the local camera store, where the photos would be developed. You’d excitedly open the packet of photos and eagerly relive the memories. It was an exciting moment, seeing the photos for the first time. Sometimes, the camera shop would put a sticker on one of the photographs, saying something like ‘I’d look great enlarged!’ if the photo was particularly beautiful or memorable.

The packet of 24 photographs would be taken home. A photo might go on the fridge. One might go with dad to work, to put on his desk. You might send grandma and grandpa a beautiful picture of the kids on the beach. Mum might make a page in the family photo album of the families recent Gold Coast holiday.

Only a select few people would see your family photographs. There was an intimacy to them. A specialness. A romance. When a son or daughter would bring home a significant other, looking at their baby photographs was a right of passage – it signified the significant other was being let into the family, into their intimate moments, into their story.

I just can’t help compare that with how different it is with photos these days. I recently went down south for my brother-in-laws 30th birthday. Even before the party started and the children were playing, I had taken over 100 photos on my iPhone! Can you believe it? Of those 100 or so, I culled them down to perhaps 60. I put maybe three or four onto my instagram.

These days, the trend seems to be that we generally take photos of everything and anything. Our morning coffee. The sunset. A funny face our children pull. A beautiful ocean vista. A family scene. Something arty. Multiple pictures of ourselves. We willingly submit these pictures to a corporation to manage. To hold. To own. To display. For others to ‘like’, for others to see.

Why do we do it? Is it just society telling us to? Do we need validation that our child is particularly special in eating baked beans in a highchair? Do we need to prove the view from our family holiday is amazing? Do we need to show the world that we can eat at some unique gin-joint? Have we all just become narcissists? Perhaps it’s much simpler than that. We want to share these special moments with others on a much grander scale.

I can’t help think that we have lost the intimacy of the photograph. The anticipation of taking a photograph on a camera and having your memories printed out on paper, just for you to see.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Have we taken photographs and social media too far? I’ve read about the hashtag #aftersex has become popular with the young and pretty. Now that’s definitely oversharing an intimate moment! Have we gone too far, or has photo-sharing been a good thing?



  1. TravelingLoveBug

    Great post, and wonderful read. I agree with you on multiple levels. I believe as a society we have abused social media, and taken it to another level… irrelevant level. I do enjoy sharing my experiences, but a hashtag like #aftersex has taken it way too far. What happen to keeping things private, or just sharing in the moment with your loved one? I use my iPhone to capture

  2. TravelingLoveBug

    Great post, and wonderful read. I agree with you on multiple levels. I believe as a society we have abused social media, and taken it to another level… irrelevant level. I do enjoy sharing my experiences, but a hashtag like #aftersex has taken it way too far. What happen to keeping things private, or just sharing in the moment with your loved one? I use my iPhone to capture many moments, but really love using my DSLR. You can’t beat a printed photo, but with digital these days people keep 1000s of photos on their devices. Is it our of convenience or laziness? How often do we even look at those photos like we would a printed photo on the coffee table? It is interesting the way social media is changing our way of life. I will always use it and adore it, but you are 100% correct on the world losing out on the true meaning of a photo…a memory stuck in time. Thank you for the good read this morning.

  3. suzjones

    I rarely use my phone to take photos unless I want something to share on FB or otherwise. (And that doesn’t happen very often). I love my digital cameras and the fact that I can take 50 photos of something if I need to without the expense of worrying about wasting money in the printing. If it doesn’t translate onto the image the way I see it in my mind, then nothing is lost apart from the time spent taking the photos.
    I love that I can check in on FB and see photos of my grandchildren getting up to mischief (like the day that the oldest played hide and seek in the dolls house). The photos just add more meaning to the stories their mother tells.
    So whilst, I would always eagerly anticipate getting my photos back from the camera store once before, I have found a whole new way to enjoy my photography.

  4. Michelle Carr

    Love your logic and post. Technology has a bitter sweet edge to its simplification of life. The demand for instant satisfaction and reward creates the loss of intimacy in some aspects as you mentioned in your post. At the same time, we are able to connect with friends and family from around the world at rapid speed. I appreciate both digital and print photography for various reasons. I love the digital photography on my phone for quick reminders of where I’ve been and reminders of who loves me, my family. This especially helps when I’m facing low points during a challenging week. The printed photos in my albums and frames are mementos of milestones: first communion, graduation, wedding. I love looking at these framed memories as chapters in life. Each life chapter deserves an album and a frame.

    Be blessed and love on,


  5. betherinahq

    Last weekend my boyfriend and I visited my parents and we ended up not only looking through an album of baby pictures but a huge box of every family holiday, Christmas, wedding – even my great aunt’s old photos! It was a lovely experience sharing intimate moments with him like you say and it does feel like we were inviting him in.

    As for digital sharing, I think perhaps we do over share but at the same time I feel my photography has really improved since being able to see other people’s snaps and getting ideas.

    One thing I found sad about my great aunt’s pics was that the people in them were unknown and we didn’t know the situation in which they were taken. My aunt isn’t around anymore to tell me the stories so these pictures are just lost memories.

    One advantage of cataloguing your life online is that in theory your memories should live on longer than you do and I think there is sweetness in that. X

  6. Merryn

    Great post! I agree that photos have become too commonplace and not as special, now that we can share them so readily and take so many. We find at home that we never look through half the shots we’ve taken because there are just too many. We do try to label the folders on the computer with the date and location, or some other helpful identification, however, I miss poring over albums for hours, looking carefully at each picture and asking many questions. Sharing pictures in small albums were a talking point and sharing photos in the post was something special too. I only have to see the curiosity in my almost-three-year-old’s eyes or in my six year old niece to know that printed photos are still able to be appreciated by the next generation.

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  8. themonumentaljackass

    This is something I’ve wanted to say a very long time, but never actually got round to.
    It’s the same for everything, I think. Extremely easy access reduces the worth of an object/service/gesture.

    Pity, for photographs had real emotion and excitement associated to them, once.

    An excellent piece, good sir. A pleasure being here.

  9. chellatine

    I love your post and your idea. I share a similar view. I love digital technology and the fact that you can take several photos of a moment or an event and not worry about limiting it to 24 or 36 shots like we used to. I also love the fact of being able to share things on social media, because I am happy and proud of a moment (especially of my beautiful child) and I feel it’s a waste not to share (especially since family and friends are away). On the other hand, I miss the excitement of using an old film camera where you are super careful and selective of your shots, you are excited to claim your prints and negatives, you decide which to recopy and to enlarge, you create real albums and frame the extra special ones. I think with the new photo technology the value of the moment is still there, but yes, something is lost. Something only we, the less young, can understand.

  10. Pingback: When the memory no longer wants to be remembered | vidinsinbrisbane
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