Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bad Photographs

I'm a big fan of the snapshot. Early photographs were highly stylized images taken by professionals. Kodak came out with the inexpensive Brownie in the late 19th century, and the informal snapshot was born. For 100 years people loaded their cameras, shot a roll, and waited for the results. Out of that roll, maybe two or three pictures were worth keeping. The rest went into a shoebox.

Now that digital cameras have made made film practically obsolete, we are seeing the demise of the "bad" photo. Take the picture, preview it, and if it's no good, delete it. Gone are the shots that are off-center, blurry, badly composed, or poorly lit. No more shadows of the photographer or fingers over the lens. The castoffs are the ones worth looking at. They're usually more visually interesting then the ones that go into the photo album.

This is sad. While the well composed photo can speak volumes about its subject, the casual snapshot is a true moment in time. Let's face it; life is very often off-center, blurry, badly composed, or poorly lit. Bad photos reflect that. Snapshots give us a window into the 20th century. Who knows how the 21st will be viewed?

These images come from the Square America website, "A gallery of vintage snapshots & vernacular photography."


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