There are over five and a half billion cell phones in the world, nearly all equipped with cameras: an orgy of recording of life as it passes. Our age has seen an explosion of this peculiarly human activity — recording activity — on a scale scarcely comprehensible even by those who’ve lived through it. What changes has this revolution wrought, not only in how we see the world, but how we live in it?
Not so many years ago, taking a photograph was a painstaking business; film was expensive, and there were no do-overs. The ordinary person might take a few rolls, say 96 or 144 or 288 exposures over the course of a holiday, composing each one with the greatest patience and care; they were very easy to spoil, since the camera could be opened again only when the film had absolutely for sure been rewound all the way. Then each roll was lovingly stored in its own little canister, away from extremes of temperature, and once home, they were dropped off at a processor, or sent by snail mail in special mailers; many anxious days would pass before the results came back, the occasion of hard-won rage or bliss scarcely imaginable today.