the changing times of the way we document our lives. the art of creating a memory

Over the decades the way people document their lives has completely changed, with advancements in technology allowing us to share as much or as little as we wish to. Here we’ll take a look at how technology not only helps us to document our lives but even goes as far as helping us to create memories. 


Key dates in camera history

Whereas once people were using dry plate cameras to document their weddings with simple portraits, today wedding guests can give the event photographer a run for their money by snapping photographs on their smartphones and uploading them straight to social media sites. The way we treat photographs and document our lives has completely changed, but before we look at that, let’s first look at a snapshot of the camera technology timeline.

 Brownie- First consumer camera

Brownie- First consumer camera


1963 – Coloured film for Polaroid cameras was released. People could start documenting their lives in colour, rather than just black and white.

1974 – The Sasson Company built the first digital camera.

1980 – Birth of the home video. Sony released the first consumer camcorder in 1980, allowing people to record their memories with more than just a photograph.


1984 – The first digital camera was marketed. Canon released the first digital camera to the public.

1984 – The first Polaroid camera is marketed. Polaroid cameras allowed people to take a photo and have it developed immediately, straight from the camera.  


1990s – The first mobile phones with cameras were launched in Japan and soon became popular around the world.


Whereas in the past only the wealthy would be able to own a camera, today many compact digital cameras can be bought for less than £150.00. Not only that but the majority of people now have cameras on their smartphones, many of which exceed the quality of purpose built cameras on the market today. 

Lost in space

Not only has the way we take photographs changed, but also what we do with them. In the past photographs were treasured by families, put in frames and displayed around the home and kept in neatly organised albums. Ask anyone who lived through the fifties, sixties and seventies if they have any Polaroid’s and we bet you’ll they’ll produce boxes and boxes full! Today the way in which we display our photographs has dramatically changed. Rather than having them printed out and displayed in the home, we simply upload them to social media sites and leave them to gather dust in cyber space. It almost seems like seeing as we have the technology to take photos as and when we wish to, they are less valuable to us than they once were. Of course, the same cannot be said for all photographs. Event photography and party photography is still considered sacred. Whilst anyone can snap pictures on their smartphones at special events, most people will still hire a party photographer for weddings, christenings and big birthdays to make sure they get high quality photographs of special moments in their lives.


The internet / social media effect

Referring back to the start of this post, we mentioned that technology not only allows us to document our lives, but also gives us the art of creating memories. To explain this further we will need to look into how social media has affected the way we document our lives and whether in fact the tweets we send and photographs we upload to Facebook are a record of our lives or simply created as an illusion, so others see us how we want to be seen. Whilst social media has definitely caused people to document their lives online more, it could also be argued that we now make decisions to do something, knowing we will be sharing it on social media later. This idea of creating a memory could be taken even further by looking at how men and women almost brand manage their social media pages with photos, updates and links that make themselves more attractive to worthy suitors. Instead of documenting their lives, it could be argued that they are going out of their way to create memories that they believe other people will be interested in. A social media site that has changed the way we share images and contributed to the rise of the ‘selfie’ is Instagram. Today you can do a search for #selfie on Instagram and be presented with over twenty three million photographs of people’s faces. Again, a photograph like this is something that people can control. Unlike with event photography, the image captured isn’t natural; it has been personally selected and chosen because it portrays the person in a certain (usually attractive) way.


It is fair to say that the internet, social media and devices like the digital camera and iPhone have not only made documenting our lives more possible but also given us the control to choose what others see of us. We are now going beyond documenting our lives and saving memories to look back on, to actually creating memories, influenced by the response they’ll get on social media.


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