A large percentage of the population now posess a smartphone. Children of younger and younger ages seem to be considering that they are an essential possession and everywhere we go, we see people ‘glued’ to their smartphones. Many smartphone users record almost every detail of their lives and some also post their photographs on their favourite social media sites. We are constantly bombarded with images of the lives of our friends and family and this can often result in us becoming blasé about them.

There are of course many benefits to having such easy access to recording our lives.

When I was growing up in Malawi, digital cameras had not been invented and all cameras used films which needed to be processed before any of the images taken with your camera could be viewed. Films tended to come with either 24, or 36 images and you had to think carefully before pressing the shutter, to decide whether or not it was an image worth capturing. Sometimes, it was many months before a film was finished, and you then needed to rewind the film back into its canister and take it to be processed. When I first started taking photographs, there was nowhere in Malawi where films could be processed and the films all had to be sent off to South Africa. There were no daily flights between Malawi and South Africa, which all contributed to the time between your film being sent off and the processed images being received, and there was always a chance that your film would get lost in transit and you would never get to see your images. I often had to wait between a month and six weeks for my processed photographs to arrive in the post. I still remember the anticipation of opening that well-sealed envelope. Invariably, there would be some disappointing images, but these would act as a good lesson of how not to take photographs, or what not to take them of. But there would always be several photographs which brought a smile to my face, as they brought to mind a special time, occasion, or person/people. These cherished images were then carefully mounted in my photograph album and I would go back to look at these images again and again. Now, many years later, I still look back at these images and they bring back many memories of my childhood. Eventually, Malawi did get its own photography processing facilities, but even then, you often had to wait a week or so for the images to be processed, and of course, you still had to wait for the film to be finished before you could send it to be developed. I think that this process made me appreciate the value of an image and the memories that it could invoke. We eventually got the equipment to create a darkroom at home, and I can still remember the delight I felt at being able to develop and print my own photographs. Back then, the images had to be processed to be viewed, but now they can be viewed instantly.

Digital cameras and smartphones have completely revolutionised the photography world and there are many advantages of digital photographs, but the biggest disadvantage (as far as I am concerned) is that photos tend to stay on phones and don't get printed out as often, or sometimes, ever. We tend to photograph everything, with no discernment and end up with hundreds or even thousands images on our phones or cameras, sometimes with good intentions to print some of the images, but good intentions are not always realised. Then, we go somewhere where we want to take some more photos, but discover that our memory cards are full and we then have to delete some of the previous photos that we have taken. If these images have not been backed up ‘in the cloud’, then we have probably lost them for ever. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, our gadgets stop working and there is no way to retrieve the images that we were storing on them.

I spend a lot of time wondering what many of today’s younger generation will look back at to recall memories of their childhood. I think that it would be a considerable shame if they are no longer able to retrieve any of their digital images and they haven’t got any printed images or albums to look back upon. 

Once a year, I make collections of my best photographs and I turn them into albums or collages or pictures and give them as gifts, to the special people in my life. They are always appreciated and valued. They are unique gifts which will be cherished for years to come, and people always appreciate the time that you have spent creating them. 

Important photos should be treated as works of art, printed out, mounted and framed, displayed on walls for everyone to see, or put into albums and viewed regularly. A photograph can instantly bring to mind that special occasion or person and bring a smile to your face and we all could do with smiling more!

A photo shoot with a photographer, or employing a photographer to record your special occasion, should result in many high quality and beautiful images being captured, but even then, they are of little value, if all of these amazing ‘frozen moments in time’ just sit on a USB stick/drive.

Your favourite image/s should always be printed out for you by your photographer who will have access to a professional printer, to produce a high quality photograph, which can then be framed or mounted and displayed on the walls of your house, so that it can bring a smile to your face EVERY SINGLE DAY, and not just on the off chance that you decide to look back through all of your photographs on your smartphone. The walls in my house are full of beautiful photographs.