Show and Tell | Popular Photography

Show and Tell

Slate's top story today dissects the ways that cellphone cameras have changed our collective lives for the better and for the worse—although mostly for the worse. Michael Agger's piece includes several insightful musings, although I wish a few of them had been drawn out into complete thoughts. Like this intriguing idea: The more difficult question, the one that lurks outside the media glare, is how the cell phone camera is altering our private lives.

Slate's top story today dissects the ways that cellphone cameras have changed our collective lives for the better and for the worse—although mostly for the worse. Michael Agger's piece includes several insightful musings, although I wish a few of them had been drawn out into complete thoughts. Like this intriguing idea:

"The more difficult question, the one that lurks outside the media glare, is how the cell phone camera is altering our private lives. In the perceptive book Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia, Nancy Martha West writes how Kodak, with the introduction of the personal camera, taught Americans to both conceive of their lives in terms of fondly remembered events and to edit out unpleasant memories."

For one thing, Agger himself notes that most events captured in cell phone pictures (and more often video) are negative. Street assaults, overzealous police officers, celebrities breaking the law. In this way, the cameraphone's ubiquitousness has the potential to reverse the trend of "editing for happiness" that the introduction of the personal camera invited. And I think the creation of digital cameras has impacted this trend even more. Individual photographs were once precious: labor-intensive and relatively expensive. Now they are an unlimited resource. And that has led people—ordinary people, not just professional journalists whose job it is to record life's unpleasantness—to take pictures of the sad as well as the happy.

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