It is almost 100 years since an ad agency told us that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is true a picture can convey so much more than a descriptive passage, but is a picture still worth a thousand words. Perhaps inflation has changed the value we can today aport to a picture.
I have many cameras filling drawers and shelves in my office. My SLR camera has not been out of its bag in over a year. It is a great piece of equipment and I love having such a technological wonder but I just don't take photos like that any more.
I have a range of point and shoot devices too. My intent was that I would grab a point and shoot whenever I walked out the door just so I had something at all times. Then I dropped a bag in the boot of my car with a camera spare batteries and chargers. After 6 months still never used.
Yet I am taking more pictures than ever before all with the very best camera in the world, the one in my pocket all the time. We heard from apple at the release of the iPhone 5 that more pictures are uploaded to flikr from iPhones than any other device. Well I don't use flikr but I sure use my iPhone to take images all the time.
So what is the value of these images? Is it still a thousand words per image? I am not so sure. When my daughter was born nearly 30 years ago I bought my first SLR camera. It was a Yashika. Yashika became absorbed into Kyocera in the mid ‘80s. I had a range of lenses and filters to get the best shots I could. In her first 12 months I took 300 photos of her. Seemed like so many. These days, at an event like a recent family birthday I took 100 photos - per hour. One family event generating more pictures than the first year of my daughter’s life.
Those 300 images of my daughter dropped into an album that sits under the stairs not looked at for a few years now. Must dig them out so she can show her new little daughter.
The family event pictures became a series of calendars, 3 in total, each repurposed for the people who would receive the calendar. The cost for the 6 calendars we distributed was $160. The cost for my daughters 300 pictures was probably about $300.
I don't make many calendars or photo books but my photos do serve a purpose. They are quick messages.
I took a recent drive across the country from Adelaide to Sydney. I made the trip through Broken Hill and across to Dubbo then Sydney. I used my iPhone to take images along the way, just to prove I was taking a break every 2 hours. A picture of the Burra miners memorial or the Wilcannia post office tells everyone who matters to me just where I am and just what I am doing. Pictures make it to Facebook in an instant so my entire extended family and friend can know about my trip.
My pictures may not be art but they are at least as purposeful as the ones of my fresh little baby 29 years ago.
There is another use of my images too.
I use my phone to make quick photo notes all the time. I was in a music store a few weeks back and saw a poster for a master class coming up. I could have taken the details down in a notebook, even using notes in my phone but I snapped the entire poster to refer to later.
The best camera in the world is the one in your pocket. The only device always in my pocket is my phone. When I get the new iPhone 5 I will have a camera with more resolution than cameras I have carted around the world not too many years ago. I am taking more pictures now than ever before and I do not need a camera.
I wanted a new camera recently. I wanted one that will geo-tag my photos so I know the exact GPS coordinates of my photos. Yeh I am a geek!, but I don't really need a new camera my iPhone does that too.
So what is the value of a photo today. Is a picture still worth a thousand words?
I don't think so. I think I place the value of a photograph at about 160 characters, the length of a text message since that is how I use most of my photos. Of course now that my iPhone links directly to twitter, I may start tweeting right from my camera and the will devalue the photos to only 140 characters. Perhaps it is not that photos are worth less than 1000 word but more that 160 characters is worth 1000 words today.
Almost final note. I am writing this on a plane across to Sydney. I would love to include a shot of us taking off or the overflight of Sydney as we come into land. But my camera is in my phone and it needs to be turned off for take off and landing. I know many people take movies of take off and landings with cameras and videos. Perhaps that is better when I want to document my flying, however I do recall a flight to Sydney a few years back when I was told to put my camera away and not to use it in take off and landing since it was an electronic device. I was not happy.
Final note. This piece is just a smidge over 1100 words. I wonder if I could have told this story with a single photograph.