“Photography isn’t dead, it just isn’t itself anymore.” Picture librarian Susan Long on the changing nature of the photograph.

The family photograph album is often one of the most treasured objects in a household. People have returned to burning buildings to retrieve photographs and negatives. Why are they so important to us?

“Photographs move through space and time and have a life of their own after their initial point of creation. They are artifacts that circulate; they are collected, traded, sold. Often embedded in human relationships, the photograph is a special kind of artifact—it is a place, an object, where precious memories are stored, revisited and reconstituted.” But in today’s world, “that which was once chemicals, film and paper is now pixels, algorithms and bytes.” Does this fundamental change in the nature of the photograph affect their role in our lives? Is it true that “if you don’t have the pictures, you don’t have the memories”?

Picture librarian Susan Long examines the nature of print and digital photographs in ‘Memory objects’, an essay in Materiality: PRECIOUS. To read more, buy the hard copy ($15) or download the digital version ($4.99).

[Unidentified woman and little girl in street] [picture]. State Library of Victoria, H2010.137/12.

[Unidentified woman and little girl in street] [picture]. State Library of Victoria, H2010.137/12.