Eye on Burnaby: The year in photos

Cellphones able to take photos with more resolution than the first generation of expensive digital SLR cameras have helped make everyone a photographer.

Gone are the days of lugging around a canvas bag filled with lenses and filters. Extinct is the mysterious world of the darkroom, where chemicals and creativity could be mixed to create magic.

No sooner is the image saved into the camera’s memory when it can be shared through websites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, SmugMug, Picasa.

Photography hasn’t just become an expression of the way we see the world, it’s become a way to interact with the world.

See an item on a shopping expedition but not sure if it’s the right colour? Snap a photo with the cellphone, text it back home and wait for the reply. And who hasn’t had the annoying experience of being surrounded by smartphone snappers at a concert or special event, more preoccupied with reliving the occasion back home on their computer than just enjoying the moment in the moment?

But have all these technological advancements that have made photography so ubiquitous actually made it better? Or has it become the 21st century expression of the proverbial infinite monkey theorem, that if a monkey is locked in a room with a typewriter long enough, it will eventually type Shakespeare? Is the monkey now holding a digital camera or cellphone?

A lot of the images that fly past us every day are just noise. They’re a reminder, a fleeting thought, an exclamation. They’re glimpsed, digested then discarded, time to move on to the next one.

Great photos rise above the noise. They make us stop. They make us see the everyday in a new way. They make us think.

Sometimes they’re a call to action. Sometimes they’re just a moment of appreciation.

Think of the significant news events of the past year and it’s likely a still image will flash through your mind: parents hugging their children at the Newtown shootings; Usain Bolt in full stride at the London Olympics; a luxury cruise ship tipped on its side off the Italian coast.

And for all the images posted on all the websites, a photo printed on actual paper still has currency, still conveys a sense of permanence and worth.Nobody boasts to their friends or family they got their picture on a website, but a photo in the newspaper gets on the refrigerator or pasted into the scrapbook.

Of course nobody is under the illusion that the photography within this special issue of the NewsLeader is great.

In fact, some of it is pretty routine. Or at least seemed that way when I first submitted them to accompany stories or stand on their own as coverage of the day-to-day happenings of Burnaby and New Westminster.

But on scrolling through the thousands of files stored on the hard drive they all jumped out as solid achievements of what every photojournalist sets out to do every day when they load their gear into the trunk of the car and hit the road; they tell stories. And collected together, they tell a pretty good story of the year that was.



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