Of all the world’s photographers, the lowliest and least honored is the simple householder who desires only to “have a camera around the house” and to “get a picture of Dolores in her graduation gown.” He lugs his primitive equipment with him on vacation trips, picnics, and family outings of all sorts. His knowledge of photography is about that of your average chipmunk. He often has trouble loading his camera, even after owning it for twenty years. Emulsion speeds, f-stops, meter readings, shutter speeds have absolutely no meaning to him, except as a language he hears spoken when, by mistake, he wanders into a real camera store to buy film instead of his usual drugstore. His product is almost always people- or possession-oriented. It rarely occurs to such a photographer to take a picture of something, say a Venetian fountain, without a loved one standing directly in front of it and smiling into the lens. What artistic results he obtains are almost inevitably accidental and totally without self-consciousness. Perhaps because of his very artlessness, and his very numbers, the nameless picture maker may in the end be the truest and most valuable recorder of our times. He never edits; he never editorializes; he just snaps away and sends the film off to be developed, all the while innocently freezing forever the plain people of his time in all their lumpishness, their humanity, and their universality.
The sad and inevitable result of our advancing technology had been the decline of fun in actually taking pictures and looking at them. A few years back, and it wasn’t that long ago, taking pictures was always something of an event. Everyone trooped out into the backyard to stand next to the garage, squinting into the sun, while Chester or Martha struggled with the camera, usually winding up with a picture that cut off the tops of all heads or hacked everyone off at the kneecaps. Nevertheless, there was great joy in it, except for the inevitable aunt who always claimed “I never look good in pictures.” implying, of course, that she looked good in the flesh.
It would be almost impossible today to locate a human being in America who has not been photographed. We belong to a generation of humanity that has the power to freeze its image for all time. Cameras have become so sophisticated and automated that I foresee the day when one will hit the market which loads itself with film, perhaps even manufacturing it in its own little belly, refuses to take pictures that are not artistically “correct”, processes the result (giving you a choice of enlargement sizes), and can be sent to the picnic at the beach alone, thereby relieving the owner of the boring responsibility of fooling around in the sand, eating burnt hot dogs, and betting a sunburn.