Saturday, October 1, 2005

Storytelling’s evolution: from cave drawings to camera phones


By Glenn Paul

The fundamentals of photography date back to the earliest cave drawings of 25,000 BCE. After all, photography is just storytelling with images -- an art form that's been evolving as long as humanity.

Now that ancient art form has gone digital. And, as digital photography converges with the Internet and mobile communication, it becomes more than the next logical step on the visual communications timeline. It marks the beginning of a personal media revolution.

"The increasing ubiquity of camera phones is allowing anyone to write history's first draft."

Imagine taking a cross-country trip and being able to send minute-by-minute voice-captioned photos for immediate posting to your Web site. Your friends and family wouldn't need to wait for your return, they'd share in everything you see, and hear about it too, just as it's happening.

But digital photography is not only changing how people take pictures. It's changing how they experience their photographs. New technologies, online services, and mediums are making it easy for people to share their photos with voices, narrations, music, subtitles, comments, animations, and more.

Prints and the family photo album are becoming obsolete, replaced with a shared online multimedia experience. Indeed, digital photography is more than taking pictures without film. It's about bringing moments to life with a multi-dimensional, more vibrant means of sharing important moments with others.

Digital rising

Digital photography didn't take off until the late 1990s, when cameras from Kodak, Apple, Casio, and Sony broke the $1,000 barrier. Unfortunately, those cameras were ahead of their time.

Most of us remember early digital photography as more of a chore than a convenience. Files were large, computers were underpowered, editing tools were primitive, and few printers were capable of producing high-quality prints.

Traditional photo prints from film were easier, better, and cheaper. But the Internet soon changed everything. People now had an easy way of sharing their personal and professional photographs with anyone, anywhere in the world.

That universal ability and desire to share photographs online drove the industry in new directions. U.S. digital camera sales grew 40% in 2004, according to Photo Marketing Association International (PMA). And the organization projects that 20.5 million digital cameras will be sold by the end of 2005, to account for 82% of total camera sales.

Photo sharing Web sites such as dotPhoto (my company), Snapfish, Shutterfly, Ofoto (now Kodak EasyShare Gallery), Flickr, and others cropped up to capitalize on the trend, make the process of digital photography easier, and provide new features and capabilities to photographers of all skills.