Old Photos Shouldn’t Die

May 28, 2021

Social media is rotting all of our brains. Photographers are falling into this rat race of constantly making as many photos as possible, something that outdoes the last thing, something that might go viral. We’re constantly trying to create an onslaught of new photos for Instagram to stay relevant. If we stop creating, we’re forgotten. In that deluge of constant “content”, some meaning is lost. If people get something from that experience, that’s great, but I have found that I do not.

Something like 11 years ago I made this photo at the wedding of two of my close friends. When I took the photo, I really wanted to tell a story with a single image. I took inspiration from Ocean’s 11, and positioned everyone exactly where I wanted them, and took this photo. I know everyone in it on a personal level, and the photo lived in my portfolio for several years. Then, I took it down and replaced it with newer work, then newer work still. The newer work was technically shot and edited better as my skill increased, but the storytelling element was weaker, because I was producing work in volume.

I used to shoot on motor drive. The more frames per second the better, but these days I prefer to shoot one shot at a time. Less is more. My phone has thousands of photos on it, but only a few that I really cherish. This has resulted in a ton of old photos and a drought of newer work. Sometimes I feel like I have been slacking in making new work, just for the grind of it.

Going back through some of my work makes me realize that these aren’t old photos; they are my life’s work. When did art stop being a lasting medium and become something temporary and disposable? Social media might not have been the genesis for this phenomena, but it also isn’t helping. If anything, it’s accelerating the decay. Somehow more access feels like it has made the medium less valuable and actual achievements are overlooked for virality.

Looking forward, I think I will spend a little more time looking back. Rediscovering some of those older photos, why I loved them, and how they can shape my future work.