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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Halcyon days of the digital camera

<ir="ltr">Life’s markers tend to involve little motions and tasks. Take cooking, for instance. The moment you get to hold a very sharp knife in your hands, supervised, to mince garlic marks entry to a new world inhabited by the adults around you. You start your path into maturity, or at least to becoming a decent enough cook that you can live well on your own for a summer eleven years later. We’ve come a long way from moments like these, and we hope our descendants get to enjoy them too, barring what the future holds.

There are some things we may not mark in the same ways, however. Take this, for example: On a family outing a decade ago in Baltimore, we were about to leave a restaurant when my dad was struck by a bout of photographic inspiration. The long-await photo of the moment was impending. My siblings and I lined up with my mom, and my dad whipped out the family digital camera from a little pouch attached to his belt loop by a carabiner. Thankfully that day, all of us were in the mood, so we naturally got in place, smiles and postures in order. After a couple of shots, I asked my dad if I could take a picture. Being around eleven years old, as well as being the eldest in the family, would help make my case, I thought then as I asked.

It didn’t take much pleading. My dad then handed me the little silver camera, not without a little concern, saying, “Hurry up!” Even though I had little experience with the buttons, I figured out from all the times watching my parents take pictures how to do it myself. The moment was a miniscule one then, but I always remembered what it was like to take a picture with the camera for the first time – and be trusted with it.

That little silver camera and I had a few more adventures. As the years went on, I ended up being the bearer of the camera at trips. That, and the tripod bearer for the camera, after my dad decided we needed one in my high school days. I remember taking that camera with me for three days for a middle school student government conference – an exhilarating privilege. Soon that camera got replaced after my younger brother somehow broke it after leaving it in his pocket while rolling down a hill. But the new one, a relatively indestructible and indefatigable Olympus model, had its moments with us. We went to the beach with that Olympus to catch videos of us getting splashed, and it even went with me for a six-day long conference when I was in high school.

But when the day comes that I will be teaching someone – a child of my own or someone else’s – to handle a camera for their first time, they won’t likely deal with the standalone camera. We now live in a day and age when digital cameras are struggling for relevance, save for the niches of the professional cameras and the GoPros, among others. Why, it was a decade ago that the first 2G iPhones came out. My dad got one around 2007, and little did we know that the smartphones-cum-cameras would shelve our digital cameras, save for the special occasion or outings where the phones would be too fragile. When our family was last together during the recent winter break, we all got smartphones on our mobile plan: the whole family had transitioned. I was no stranger to their use, and taking pictures had never been so easy.

The funny thing is that despite the ease, lately I’ve gone a couple of days without taking a photo of people. Friends of mine can tell you that my social media pic game, whether posting to Facebook or sending Snaps, is a weak one. In fact, the camera on the phone seems more utilitarian. (My recent photos have been for my online lab notebook.) The thrill, if there is one, is different with these cameras, what with the immediacy of capturing the photo and distributing it. Surely I can live with them, and the specialness of moments with the separate, specialized camera device may tend towards sentimentality and nostalgia that we’ll move on from. But the hell with moving on right now! All I can think for now is that I long for those cameras, those moments of capture that seemed all the more interesting and exclusive than they do today…

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