While wandering around around Trujillo earlier this week I stumbled across the store where I had some photos developed during the 11 months when I lived in the city. This made me think about how the act of sharing photos from my stays in Peru has changed over the past 10 years.
It was the year 2000 and digital cameras - let alone mobile phones with digital cameras – were still unheard of. In order to be able to give my family in Austria a better idea of how the environment I was living in looked at I took photos of my room, my house, my host-family, my school, the city center, etc. I then went to the store mentioned earlier, handed in my film-roll and then came back a day later to pick up the photos. I then wrote a short explanatory sentence on each photo and went to the post-office sending the letter off to Europe. I think it took two or three weeks before the letter arrived and another few days before I saw the e-mail from my mother saying that so.
Fast forward to 2005 when I went back to South America to travel through Peru and Bolivia for five weeks. By that time (and after weeks of research!) I was the very proud owner of a Kodak DX7590 digital camera and two 256MB SD cards. Being trigger-happy I filled up the cards within a few days and for a moment I was at a loss about what to do next. Luckily I wasn’t the first traveler in that situation so Internet cafés had started offering burning photos from memory cards to CD for a little fee. Being worried about losing my photos in case my back bag was stolen I actually got two CDs with copies of each SD card. I ended up carrying one set of CDs on me at all times with the second set being stored at the hostels I was staying in. As I was keen to share the photos with family and friends I spent more than one afternoon sitting in an Internet café, complaining about the upload speed (or lack thereof) and hoping that my e-mails with the photos attached would actually make it across the Internet.
Now in 2010 things have again changed. Instead of my Kodak DX7590 (which unfortunately has shown considerable signs of age after having been a trusted travel companion across Taiwan, China, Mongolia, Russia, USA, Nepal and Europe) I relied on a Canon IXUS 100 IS. In some ways that move meant giving up flexibility in terms of being able to adjust photo settings. On the other hand it gives me more flexibility due to the fact that the camera is so small that I have it on me at all times. And as the saying goes: the best camera is the one you have on you. Equipped with multiple 8GB SD cards and my laptop storage wasn’t going to be a problem either.
In terms of photo sharing I started using Flickr two or three years ago and have been quite happy with it. In particular it has helped me keep up some discipline when it comes to going through my photos, finding the “best of” from each series and also keeping track of what each photo shows since 100_7704.JPG isn’t a particularly useful photo title. I subsequently also mention photo uploads on Twitter and highlight some of them here on the blog.
For my current OLPC News South America Road Trip our publisher Wayan also hooked up the @olpcnews twitter-feed to my Flickr account. This means that every upload photo that I tag with olpc is automatically mentioned on the @olpcnews feed and subsequently also re-tweeted on Wayan’s twitter feed. As a result many of my photos tagged with olpc receive upwards of 150 views with some of them even getting more than 300 views.
What a difference 10 years make, right?
I can only imagine what things will be like the next time I’m back in Peru (hopefully in less than 5 years). Already this time ‘round I could have done the whole geo-tagged, real-time upload thing if my mobile phone wasn’t three years old.
One thing I expect to see in the future are mash-ups that can automatically superimpose relevant information on the photos (e.g. details about the city a photo was taken in) or put photos in useful correlation (e.g. showing photos of the same square or church which I or others took five years earlier).
Oh, and of course the cameras / phones / retinal implants these photos will be taken with will all have >25 MegaPixels, yet still come with crappy lenses and optics…. ;-)