‘Photographs don’t just capture images, they recreate memories.’

Analogue photography, most commonly known as Film photography is a dying art, some may say. However, it is essential to observe that the excitement of owning a polaroid camera in this era of digital technology is an evidence of combining the adulation for film photography and the need of instant gratification made available by contemporary photography. Analogue photography has also made a come-back in the last few years as more and more photographers, amateur or professional, flock the camera repair shops with either a second-hand or heirloom camera in an attempt to rediscover non-digital, vintage photography.

Resurgence of analogue photography may be attributed to its authentic aesthetics, better quality, colour, dynamic range, the vintage appeal and the desire to capture ‘real’ images as reproduced by the camera sensor. However, the percentage of population solely attracted to film photography is yet meagre. In the age of technology and the era of digital photography enhanced by artificial intelligence and smart devices, most of the population has become addicted to clicking pictures. Social media platforms have further made possible the sharing of pictures in real-time and made people conscious about the statistics of likes on their posts. The feeling of nostalgia while going through albums is now replaced with casual scrolling.

On the face of it, digital photography may seem to be more sustainable with the fact that images made with digital cameras can be reviewed on the spot and saved for later or deleted if they are not satisfactory. They are of high resolution, do not require films and eliminate the overhead costs of developing the films which come with a lot of health hazards such as depigmentation of skin and eye injuries to name a few.  On the downside, digital photographs are easily mutable, can be exploited and edited to ‘create’ photographs, and render the ‘truth’ of photography obsolete. Evidence shows that about 350 million photographs are uploaded in a day on Facebook; 95 million photographs and videos shared on Instagram daily; the combined number of images shared uploaded on both platforms now exceeds 290 billion; whereas approximately 188 million people use Snapchat on a daily basis; and these numbers would have increased by manifold post Covid-19 pandemic. As back up, people upload pictures on a variety of platforms such as Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, etc. An average size of an image clicked runs in kilobytes or megabytes, depending upon the lens or the device used. It can now be comprehended how much millions of gigabytes of data is being stored via cloud computing, adding to the digital pollution. The carbon footprint while posting a photograph on Instagram is about 0.15grams whereas merely scrolling on the feed for a minute emits 1.5grams of CO2. It is estimated that an average user spends 28 minutes scrolling on social media each day, which amounts to emission of 42grams of CO2 on one social media platform.

Digital Photography may be convenient and comes with its own advantages, but is it really sustainable – is a question we need to ask ourselves. Is it time to shift back to analogue photography? Or is it time that we understand the amount of the digital pollution we are contributing to and click photographs consciously & upload them judiciously?

Ms. Priya Shukla is a Senior Project Associate at World Intellectual Foundation. She has a background in Public Administration and Political Science and works in the area of research and Public Policy. Ms. Priya wants to be the change and contribute in making the world a happier, healthier and peaceful place. She loves creating memories and practices photography as her hobby.