Greater Vancouver Consumer: Technology Changes Photography

Technology changes photography September 2008

By Greg Gazin
Troy Media Corporation

EDMONTON, AB, September 30, 2008/Troy Media/ -- Brian Melo, the 2007 Canadian Idol winner, does it.

Canadian photographer Peter Burian does it.

Techno-blogger and podcaster Amber MacArthur does it.

In fact, more Canadians are doing it more and more every day.

What is it we all seem to be doing? Taking pictures on our cell phones.

"We love to take pictures and share them with friends. That's not new; a cell phone simply makes it easier, and the camera is always available," Burian said.

To MacArthur, it is the spontaneity of taking photograph using her cell phone that is so appealing. That, and its practical uses: "I like taking pictures for comparison shopping or to, say, have a visual reminder of where I parked my car."

It's all part of what is called Social Networking, keeping in touch by sharing photos and instantly exchanging pieces of our lives, which sits well with Brian Melo. "I use my camera phone on the road, sending them back to family and friends," he said.

But taking pictures wasn't always so easy. In the early 19th century, for example, photography was in its infancy and taking a photograph was a tremendous feat. According to the Alberta's Arts Heritage web site at the Alberta Online Encyclopedia, back then the only choice was to use a photographer because equipment was rare, complex, bulky, heavy, expensive and a real challenge to move around.

But even as cameras became more portable they were still reserved for the affluent. Some of us can still remember the cost of buying film and getting it processed. But that all changed with the cell phone and digital photography.

Cameras are now commodities, cheap and easily transportable. Memory cards store any and all images we take, and can be easily uploaded to our computers and or sent over the Internet. In the 19th century, images were captured on what was called Daguerreotypes, made with a silver plate and mercury vapour, not to mention extremely toxic.

In other words, the rules of the game have changed.

Today, we take pictures on a whim, MacArthur said. While in the past taking pictures was reserved for special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings and graduations and other life-altering events, today we don't seem to need a reason. We smile, laugh, stick out our tongue and snap the shutter, usually on our cell phone.

Want to know what photography was like in the past? Visit the Father Chalifoux Image Gallery on the St. Vincent and St. Paul: Francophone Memory in Alberta web site. The photographs are all posed, planned and formal, and the expressions on the subjects' faces can only be described as stone-faced. They are all dressed in their Sunday best, are stiff and motionless- frozen in time.

And photographs of women in the workplace were very rare. Dr. Nanci Langford, author of "Modesty & Meaning: Women in Alberta Local Histories", writes that such photos were considered very unattractive, let alone impractical for two reasons: First, because of the technology current at the time and second women would not think of stopping their work to pose for a snapshot. But there are some examples, she writes. Photographs of women in the workplace, at the Alix Creamery around 1937, are shown at the Women of Aspenland Images from Central Alberta website at

But not matter the changes in technology, a common thread weaves its way between photographs taken both today and yesterday: the need to capture that special (or, today, not so special) moment in time. Whether of people, places, events or even a pencil on a desk, photographs have an inherent value to the one taking them usually sentimental.

But it can actually be more valuable than you think.

Snezhana Zahorulko, from Burnaby, B.C, recently won a dream vacation package valued at $10,000 in Sony Ericsson's Searching for Canada's Next Top Mobile Photographer contest. Judged by Burian, MacArthur and Melo, her winning snapshot depicted a child holding the sun in the palm of her hand. "I was admiring the pretty view in Victoria and it just struck me," she explained as the inspiration for her winning shot.

Burian, who prefers to carry a full-sized camera whenever possible, is convinced that technology like camera phones has changed the way we take pictures. "This type of camera is important. Many of the photos would simply never have been recorded if cell phones were not equipped with image capture devices."

So, in 2108, a century from now, when we're the blast from the past, what kinds of pictures will be at the Alberta On-line encyclopedia? Who knows, but for now, you can enjoy the incredible 75,000 plus photographs 4,000 audio files and over 2,000 video files, at almost 80 fully searchable websites at AlbertaSource.

Copyright 2008 Troy Media Corporation. All rights reserved

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