Photography 300 Years from Now

An idea from my buddy Nietzsche:

Put the skin of at least 300 years between yourself and your contemporaries.

Perhaps this is the secret to longevity and impacting future generations of humanity, and to stay relevant.


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“I shall make a monument more enduring than bronze!” (Horace)

Silhouette Cindy project prague
Prague, 2017 #cindyproject #silhouette

I am curious:

What lasts, and what doesn’t last?

Longevity in photography

For example in photography:

Tips, ideas, techniques, and philosophy is “evergreen”, while reviews on camera equipment and technology become stale very quickly.

Thus from a simple longevity perspective:

Don’t waste stuff on what will go stale (in a few years). Aim for CENTURIES.

100 years is good enough (for most)

I forgot who said it (maybe Seneca), but the basic notion is this:

In order to see who is “good”, if their work lasts at least 100 years, it is “good” (it has stood the test of time, thus has proved its value).

We cannot control whether we will be influential 100 years from now or not. However, we can control striving to think about creating work that lasts — to think 300 years from now.

The year 2319

atlas rockerfeller

It is difficult for me to think about the world 300 years from now (the year 2319). To think about my future grand-grand-grand children, and society in general.

Some basic predictions:

1.We will still be making photos

First of all, I believe we will still shoot “still photos”. Why? It is easier, more immediate, and equivalent to the written text.

For example, I still find it 1000x easier to archive and read a book, than watch a film. Watching a film requires a third-party instrument and all these different forms of file storage. Whereas when a book is printed, it can last thousands of years. The other day I handled a 100+ year old handwritten book, and it still “performs” well. I cannot imagine using a 100+ year old computer.

acupuncture points model

The benefit of still photos:

When we print a still photo, it can theoretically last for thousands of years.

Consider how quickly technology becomes obsolete

animated gif koi fish

However with videos, we will still need a third-party device to view and play it. Just consider how difficult it is to have a “slide-show” (viewing color 35mm slide film on a projector). Or even in my generation — all these technologies which quickly became obsolete:

  • No more VHS players
  • No more CD players (disappearance of the CD drive from laptops)
  • No more “normal” USB ports (my MacBook Pro only has USB-C)
  • No more Iomega zip drives
  • No more DVD
  • No more audio-cassettes
  • No more headphone jack (all audio is turning to bluetooth).

2.Human ethics/politics/morals will still remain

selfie iPhone pro silhouette

Technology will change much, but our basic human instincts and nature will not change much.

For example future humans will continue to deal with human emotions:

  • Jealousy
  • Envy
  • Anger
  • Hatred
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Hierarchy
  • Wealth
  • Poverty
  • Slavery

Essentially moral philosophy and ethical philosophy will remain. I can guarantee you with almost 100% certainty that Socrates (origin of moral/ethical philosophy) will continue to be read 300 years from now.

Eric angel wings selfie iPhone pro

Also, we will continue to read Homer (Iliad/Odyssey) perhaps for another 2,000+ years. We will continue to read about human courage and pride (main topics in the Iliad) and about loving and longing (Odyssey), perhaps until the end of time. Or at least as long as humanity continues to exist. Homer has become an immortal artist.

3.Black and white photography will remain

Why I believe monochrome photography will remain:

It is the most “future-proof” in the sense that colors will always change and fade, whereas black and white (monochrome) is more resistant/robust to future changes.

Color science is insanely complicated. There are a trillion theories on color. Nobody has really figured out the true and definitive “science” behind color, and I don’t think we ever will.

For example, our displays are constantly evolving. I still recall my old super-thick and fat “CRT” monitor from when I got my first computer when I was 12 years old: an Acer Windows-PC, with Windows 95, 1GB of hard drive storage, a 38.8k modem, and a massive 13” CRT monitor. The colors on it are certainly a trillion times different than my modern iPad Pro.

Apple is the gold standard. Even note the new Apple Pro Display XDR: Retina 6K. We will continue the relentless march of technology: 8K, 10K, 12K, 100K, etc.

Even if we print color photos as prints, the colors (with enough time) will fade. And color will fade faster than black and white (black and white is already ‘faded’).

I love color photography, and will probably always shoot some color photography until I die. I see huge potentiality for digital medium format photography and color. My personal opinion is that with digital medium format photography, we don’t really “need” color film anymore.

To me, I consider digital medium format photography color photos (as good, or perhaps even better) than color film. I consider my digital medium format photos as beautiful as the Kodak Portra 400 35mm film I’ve shot in the past.

4.Spaceship photography and Mars photography

Also 300 years from now, I think we will still be shooting film to some degree — but it will become a slightly strange novelty — akin to our interest in vinyl today. Film will have stronger longevity than digital, because the actual films will last. But I cannot imagine shooting film and developing film photos while in a spaceship or on Mars.

If we are thinking about longevity 300+ years from now, perhaps we should ditch film, and start thinking more about digital photography. Imagine a digital camera produced on Planet Earth, and can theoretically continue to exist “indefinitely” while in space, or when going to Mars (perhaps a Sony A7s-series for High-ISO, and Pentax 645Z for maximal resolution).

5.Existential photography 300 years from now

This is where things get interesting.

Why will humans 300 years from now make photos?

Incipit Existential Photography >