If you are, like me, the parent of a young child and given to being a little shutter-happy with your camera, it’s quite possible that someone has referred to your son or daughter as “the most photographed child in the world.” I most often get it from my parents or in-laws, usually just after I’ve lifted the camera up to my eye. I was reflecting the other day on that phrase and it struck me that it’s kind of lost its meaning in the age of the digital camera.
I have the vague notion that this phrase may have entered the public lexicon via the Kennedy children, who certainly were well-known to the world by their numerous photographs. Another person I’ve heard given the title “world’s most photographed child” is Shirley Temple, which makes a fair amount of sense considering her young career in entertainment. These days, who knows? A quick Google search turns up the speculation that it may be Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter, Suri, but really, your guess is as good as mine.
The funny thing is, the volume of photographs of just about anybody these days is probably more than enough to have qualified him as the “most photographed person” 50 or 60 years ago. I mean, in the two years since my son was born, I’ve easily shot 5,000 frames of him, and possibly quite a bit more. That’s to say nothing of the pictures taken by my wife, our parents, our siblings, and our friends.
It’s not hard to imagine even 20,000 frames having been taken of him. That would average out to just over 27 pictures a day. And yet, I’m positive that he’s nowhere near the most photographed child on Earth, his grandparents’ claims notwithstanding. The advent of the digital camera — especially the affordable pocket cam — has made photography both ubiquitous and extremely cheap.
Let’s take those 5,000 frames I’ve taken of my son. Even with relatively inexpensive film — say $10 per 100 frames — that’s still $500 in film alone, to say nothing of processing and printing fees. Ah, you say, but you had to spend money up front on the camera. That’s true, of course, but then, film cameras didn’t exactly grow on trees, either. By taking away the per-shot cost of photography, digital cameras have made it possible for people to take as many pictures as they want of whatever they want.
There are two sides to that coin, of course. On the one hand, by making it so cheap to take pictures, digital has made people more free to experiment with different styles and subjects, without worrying about wasting film. On the other hand, it’s also freed people from having to think about what they’re shooting–thus the enormous volume of pictures of people’s lunches you see on Facebook.
On the whole, though, I think that it’s a pretty exciting time for photography and photographers. Right now, more people are taking more pictures than at any time in history, and I can’t help but think that that makes it all the more likely that one of them will do something wonderful. Maybe it means that my son doesn’t get to be the most photographed child in the world, but I can live with that. I’m sure that when he’s a teenager, he’ll agree.
“Click take a pic” Belzie @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Suri Cruise with her parents, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine”
“Shirely Temple” Photo source unknown