Uninvent Your Camera

For its series “Uninvent This,” The New Yorker asked writers to discuss what they wished had never been invented. Answers covered everything from technology to mundane objects to concepts. In that same spirit, what would you uninvent, and how would your life—and the world—be different without it?

Photos freeze the world in place for just a moment. In the rapidly moving world, it’s refreshing to look at a photo, stop the earth’s spin, and live in the past for a few minutes. Photos are sentiments—souvenirs of a time and place that has passed. It’s comforting to hold them and peer into the eyes of whoever was just captured in celluloid. Photos belong in frames, on walls, in homes, on refrigerators, or wherever they can be appreciated. I think photos have no better habitat than pinned to a bulletin board with a little sharpie writing on the white space beneath.

Sadly though, this important souvenir has changed. Ever since the first digital cameras were brought into the household, it’s been easier than ever to take a picture. From the tiny blue digital camera that every mother owns, to the iPhone that can be found in the palm of every high schooler, it’s easier than ever to take a picture—so easy that one can accumulate ten or twenty pictures in a single day and not remember one of them. While digital cameras make picture taking far easier, the ease takes the joy out of the picture; photography becomes trivial. There is no cost for film—no end to the digital pictures. With the ease of digital cameras, the pictures that come out are nearly meaningless, with no love or sentiment. Instead of living on walls, they live in a hard drive—only to be occasionally noticed while scrolling through iPhoto. There’s no writing with sharpie, no pinning on walls, no sliding into photo books. With the digital camera, the love that a photograph deserves cannot be present. If I could uninvent anything, I would uninvent the digital camera.

If the world didn’t have the digital camera, life would slow down, and maybe, it would be a little more caring. The world would slow its spin for just a moment. Before taking a photograph, people would look around and see their friends and family together draped across a green hill or a stage or wherever a family should be. Like Christmas morning, every photo would allow people to appreciate those around them.

If I could uninvent the digital camera, my analog camera would be my prized possession. Every picture I take would have a story behind it. Film isn’t cheap, so every picture needs thought and care. From the sappy high school plays to my wedding, I would be able to capture in film what really matters. I would put down my phone, look around for just a minute, get out my polaroid and sharpie, and see the lovely world around me.

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