What a fantastic spectacle! The three day Sea Odyssey lived up to all the media build-up and, like the Giant Spider, brought out the crowds in their thousands. There have been negative comments – the money should have been spent on this, that or the other – but the same criticism always surfaces (remember the International Garden Festival being dismissed as a glorified garden centre in spite of attracting over 3 million visitors). For three days, the city has made international news, all of it positive, and its status as a ‘happening’ city continues to grow year on year.
But my post today is of a slightly tangential nature. What was particularly noticeable was the astonishing number of photographs being taken. It seemed as if everyone had a camera, mobile phone or, in a few cases, iPad. How many millions of photos were taken? More pertinently, how many of the images will survive over the next 100 years? The photograph below was taken in 1900 to celebrate the Relief of Mafeking during the Boer War. Colonel Robert Baden-Powell (who later founded the Boy Scouts) became a national hero when he led a force of 2,000 men and overcame the 5,000 strong Boer force who had held the small town for over seven months. The news was greeted with wild excitement in Britain and the celebration in Exchange Flags illustrates the patriotic response (the banner on the right proclaims Baden-Powell “We’ve come to stay”.
As far as I know, this is the only photograph to survive that commemorates the celebration. Can we be sure that our digital record of today has the same lifetime? I worry that, in spite of the proliferation of images, few will be archived in an accessible form. The first megapixel camera has only been with us since 1998 and digital photography has radically changed the way we take, look at and store photographs. It has been estimated that each one of us will collect over 50,000 images over our lifetimes but, unless they are probably organised and filed, it will be impossible to sort through such an immense volume of photographs. Interesting times indeed!