Kodachrome – you give us the nice bright colours

As you may know, I was recently away on vacation in Russia. What you don’t know is how many photos I took. Want to hazard a guess? Whatever you guessed I’m guessing you are wrong. I took none. Zero. Zippo. Not a single view of St. Basil’s church, or the church of Dimitri of the Spilled Blood or even the church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood (spilled blood being somewhat of a theme that appears to require building a church). Anyhow, here are some of the reasons why I don’t take vacation photographs.

1. Unfortunately you no longer need to own a camera to own a camera and you also no longer need film, a resource that limits (in a good way) the ability to take as many photos as you like. The new normal typically results in hundreds of repetitive shots that do not get curated before they are posted on Facebook. I choose not to clutter up cyberspace with bloated mediocre travel albums. You’re welcome.

2. This is not to imply there were no bad pictures taken back in the Kodachrome days. It was worse because you had no way of knowing how horrible your snapshots were going to turn out in advance of forking over $20 to get them developed. At least now you can remove evidence of bad composition and lighting immediately or even choose not to take the photo to begin with (however it appears that not enough people are clued into this functionality). I still have several packets of photos from the bad old days with thumbs in the corners or terminally blurred images of something or other. I think I keep them because I paid for them. Also, all of these photo envelopes contain a strip of negatives, which I have also never thrown out. The permanence of the internet trail is nothing compared with the nine lives of the negative.

3. I don’t need the existence of a photograph to prove that I visited Red Square or Times Square or to prove my own existence at a particular point in time. After all, imaginary numbers exist without documentary evidence and only last week, according to the highly reputable Weekly World News, the U.S. government apparently confirmed the existence of mermaids without a credible accompanying photo. When I look back at old photographs I either remember the event or location in question quite vividly (even without the photo) or I don’t remember it (even with photo) or I remember it quite differently (with or without the photo). I am also capable of vividly remembering things that were not captured on film. And that is a good thing.

4. If I want a photo of any architecturally or historically or culturally significant place I can find one on the internet that is bound to be better than anything I could take. In fact, most of us already know what all of the culturally and historically significant sites look like, even site unseen. Anyhow, do you really want to see them with me standing in front of them in front of the crowd in front of them, or appearing to be holding them up or squishing them between my thumb and finger? I thought not.

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