This week, Ikea launched an app that allows you to take one photo and only one photo. Their reasoning? In a world where taking gazzilions of images, then fine tuning them to near perfection using filters and other built-in widgets before posting them on social media platforms, that maybe it’s time to take a step back. That maybe if we approached our photos with more of a sense of purpose, they would be even more powerful forms of expression.
A Concept that Really Hit Home
When I read about Ikea’s bold idea, it took me back to a place and time when I had no choice but to weigh the import of every photo I composed.
In 1983, I spent six and a half months on the Pacific Crest Trail. Back then, there were no digital cameras. The only technology I could afford was a Cannon FX camera and slide film. When we hiked into towns to get supplies (a period that ranged from 7-17 days), our first stop would be the U.S. Post Office. We mailed food boxes to ourselves (more precisely, my mother mailed them to us when we gave her the go ahead from the last Post Office). Inside each box was two rolls of 36-exposure Kodak slide film and two pre-paid processing mailers. I would mail the exposed film to Kodak for developing and pack my two fresh rolls in my camera bag for the miles ahead.
Walking through some of the most beautiful scenes on earth knowing that you only have an allotment of seven photos a day (or less) forces you to slow down and ask fundamental questions including the most important one — should I even take the shot at all?
The decisions I made when looking through my viewfinder more than 30 years ago were important ones — light, composition and film speed among them. But slowing down and being mindful of every single shot took my photography to a different level — like the difference between pouring spaghetti sauce out of a jar or creating it from scratch. One is churned out on an assembly line. The other is crafted and nurtured.
I hadn’t really given it much thought recently. But thanks to Ikea, I think it’s time to take a fresh look through the viewfinder, no matter what format I’m shooting in.