Following the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, a few years ago I came to the conclusion that a printed photograph is worth hundreds, if not thousands of digital photos stored on your phone or hard drive.
Since I started with digital photography sometime in 2002 with a compact digital camera (Nikon Coolpix 2500), followed in 2004 by the first DSLR (Nikon D70), and especially in 2009 with the first smartphone (iPhone 3GS), my output of digital photos has ballooned to several thousands per year. These photos end up in my phone’s memory, on various physical and virtual hard drives (for storage, editing, and backup), on Instagram, Flickr, and a myriad of other places. My current iPhone alone holds about 13,000 images.
But as it became easier and easier to take a photo, I realised that my love for photography didn’t increase at the same rate. In part that’s because a lot of the photos I take are just ephemera I save for future reference or because I dedicate little time to curate the many images that I store away. I don’t just love taking photos but also to look at photos (my own and others). When you have tens (hundreds?) of thousands of photos put away somewhere, it’s difficult to flip through them, and it’s often impossible to find the one you’re looking for as if it were the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Paraphrasing a well known philosophical riddle, if a photo is stored digitally and no one ever looks at it, does it even exist?
To counter this I started to print photos again, one a day to be precise, and collect them in albums that I keep in a bookshelf. This became a mindful daily ritual I’ve been practicing so far for 487 days in a row. Picking each photo is a conscious act that makes me slow down and reflect on what happened that day. Browsing through a year of photos by flipping the album pages brings me joy. The human interface is physical and this practice is not a denial of digital photography — I love it! — but giving it a physical presence in my everyday life.
The daily ritual is very simple. Before I go to bed I select one photo to represent the day that has just passed. It doesn’t have to be the absolute highlight or the best photo of the day, as that would put too much pressure in capturing every possible moment just in case. No, I’d rather enjoy being present with whomever I am or doing whatever I’m doing. Sometimes, when I remember to do so or the moment is right, I do take that one special photo.
I then add the photo of that day, of that particular year, to a dedicated album on my iPhone. If I’ve taken the photo using another camera, I’ll transfer it to the smartphone to keep an orderly record.
Printing & Storing The Photos
I print the selected photo using a Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 Photo Printer, which uses the same instant film cartridges as the regular Instax cameras. I use a pencil to write on each photo the date, the cumulative number corresponding to that specific year (normally X/365, 366 for leap years) and a quick caption. Because the Fujifilm Instax mini photo format is roughly the size of a business card (54 mm × 86 mm or 2.1 in × 3.4 in), I store them in a simple business card holder by Muji. Each album can hold 200 photos, so I use two albums per year. In the past I’ve used a smaller Muji album, but each one could hold just 180 cards, making it an odd multiple for a year.
When I’m traveling I either keep the photos in the appropriate album on my phone and print them in batch when I get back home or, if I’m carrying the tiny printer with me I’ll print and store them in a small business card holder until I’m able to put them into the year’s album.
PS: I Still Love Analogue Photography
I still enjoy doing film photography. It sometimes takes me months, if not years to finish a sing roll, while other times I travel only with film cameras to focus on analogue photography. My fridge holds a couple of boxes with a few dozen film rolls in them, and a big stash of Instax Mini cartridges from my last trip to Japan. In case you’re interested, my current trifecta of analogue cameras is made by a Nikon F3HP for 35mm, a Hasselblad 503CX for medium format, and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 50 that uses the same cartridges than the SP-2 printer.
Originally published at https://www.gchicco.com on May 6, 2019.