Friday, August 28, 2015


For 150 years, cameras were basically luxury items. If you made a business of taking pictures somehow you could make it a business expense, but for the rest of us cameras were purchased with surplus money, and generally for pleasure.

They were a luxury item. Some were modest luxuries, others rather immodest. The immodest ones remain with us, less modest than ever.

At the other end, though, it's interesting.

An argument can be made that a cell phone is not a luxury in our modern world. You've got to be able to communicate to participate in the economy, and cell phones are, globally, the answer. People who live in tents and herd goats for a living, have cell phones. The very poorest in the world do not, but the wealthier half do. Everyone who is not locked in a daily pitched battle to acquire enough calories to make it to tomorrow has a cell phone.

This means they have cameras. And, frequently, some way to share pictures. They might not have an iPhone, it might be some minimalist feature phone, or a very cheap smartphone. But they can take a picture and send it to a friend. Maybe they can even stick it on Facebook.

The ability to take a picture has changed. It's now wrapped in with one of life's necessities. It is not merely ubiquity, it's more than that. It's a fundamental change in access, you no longer need to desire to take photos, you no longer need to have surplus money. The ability to take and share pictures is essentially built-in to the basics of life anywhere above dire poverty.

It seems to me that this must have some sort of consequences.

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