A sign

Above: A sign affixed to a lamp-post in Kensington, October 2018. Credit: Oscopic.

Lost Camera With Precious Photos

These days one's smartphone/digital-camera is also a photo-archive. Many persons hold an archive of several thousand photos on their phone--sometimes tens-of-thousands. If I lose my device I will very likely lose at least some irreplaceable photo-images. Backing-up one's photo albums to computer, external HD, USB-stick, or cloud-storage is a new duty in life which can be aided by all manner of auto-backup facilities. But even with these auto functions turned on if I lose my device it is likely that I will lose some cherished captures. Devices are often insured and can be replaced one-way-or-another, but not so the missing photos. If I lose some photos this way there will always be a residual nagging feeling that the pictures were unique--some little part of me is gone for good. A photograph is intrinsically somewhat unrepeatable in that every lived moment is unique--to find again that person in that light in those clothes in that mood is rather impossible. To find them again at another time, on another day, in different clothes, in a different mood is only possible. (Some photo-shoot subjects are famous for their super-intrinsic unrepeatability--wedding day; infant's first steps; family reunion, etc.) This format of image-loss is particular to digital-photography. In the former photo-era, the era of the hard-copy snapshot, photos existed as print-outs with a separate set of negatives, always remote to the device. The camera in those days was a "dumb" unit: when not in use it did not retain any images.

One has to feel some sympathy for any person reduced to sticking up hand-made pleas for the safe return of precious photos. Unfortunately, one of the qualities of such photos is that although they may be precious to the owner, to anyone else they will likely appear as boring--just some pictures of persons unknown. The quality of preciousness does not extend outwards--it is always bound-up with specificity.

For Baudrillard, in the consumer age, money's destiny is to be wasted; money wants to be wasted--as he would have it. We could formulate something similar for the digital-photo: the digital-photo wants to be deleted; deletion is the destiny of the digital-photo.

(29 October 2018)