Twilight of the color photo | As printed snapshots vanish, we're losing more than shoe boxes full of mementos - The Boston Globe
Our rituals have already shifted. We no longer hand vacation photos around patiently at dinner parties. If we do reach for our photo albums, the collections start to thin out around 2006. Family pictures migrated from our desktop to our "desktop," and showing off a wallet photo is suddenly very rare. Instead, we flip open to the snap on our cellphones, where our beloved's low-res face competes brightly with the time, date, and number of bars. (Many of our friends are smiling away inside that camera phone.)
Printing is still just as easy and cheap as it ever was, but given the option, we now prefer to save - or upload - instead. That tells us something about our appetite for convenience, but even more about what we want from photographs in the first place. The object itself, no matter how crisp and permanent, how lush or mysterious, turns out to matter less than our ability to capture, store, and share an image. Without the print, photography's magical power - to freeze a moment in time - is still ours. In fact, although we continue to think of the photograph as a physical thing, we are finding out that it better serves our needs without being printed.
But as with each of our advances, something else is being lost. It is easy to think of the print and the digital image as the same thing, but they're actually very different. Even as cameras tout their ever-increasing megapixels, nearly everything we view is projected out at 72 dots per inch, the standard resolution of a monitor. The resulting pictures are back-lit, vivid, and very easy to scan, so we hardly notice how hard it is to look into them.