Me and my camera in my home town, my capital city, my london
The future: a solar flare wipes takes out all tech on earth. The internet is evaporated, as are our computers, everything is wiped clean. Every digital photograph that has ever been taken goes up in a puff of smoke. All those moments in our lives that we desperately tried to document so that we would not forget them but in doing so, maybe forgot to live them, are now gone. This might not happen in our lifetime but even if it didn’t, what will happen to all these computer files we have assigned to house our most precious memories? Where will they all go when we are gone? Will they be preserved? Will they survive? It seems unlikely. Hard drives will undoubtedly fail and become incompatible in the future. Devices will break, cease to function, become lost. But they can’t take away our social media. All the pictures we have posted? Surely they will be there forever? Even so, the great existential question of the 21st Century must surely be…will anyone look at my feed when I am gone?
The problem is that digital files do not feel real. They are a fiction of 0s and 1s. These coded approximations house our memories, our music, our movies and are therefore the protectors of our existence. Their job is to preserve but they themselves lack the skill of self-preservation. They are not trustworthy guardians. I have amassed a mountain of digital photographs over the last decade (recently clocking 100,000) but their permanence feels very fragile and nebulous. Its not just the thought of losing them but the fact that they aren’t really there in the first place.
I have recently made my first photography book (stay tuned for more info) and as soon as I held it in my hand it felt more real than all my digi photos put together. I now plan to make as many books as I can to bring these digital facsimiles into the real world. The resurgence of people using traditional film cameras, the vinyl renaissance and the increase in sales of books over kindle downloads show that format is far from dead, it is in fact making a big comeback. People need to literally hold things in their hands to feel a connection that digital access clearly can’t provide. Art needs that tangibility. The question is, will we eventually tire of screen based activity completely and return to a more physical experience? Is analogue the way forward rather than just being a nostalgic look back?
The current focus on all things digital could end up being just be a fleeting moment in time for the human race and either side of it will be big massive giant chunks of reality. It seems very unlikely that we will give it up but it might very well be taken from us. And then we will have to remember how we functioned before we hid behind a screen. Cue scream. Cut to stampede of crazy mob running through the street with their hands in the air…