The Last Word: May You Live in Interesting Times—Curse or Blessing?

The Last Word: May You Live in Interesting Times—Curse or Blessing?


Is the camera business really shrinking ultimately to be replaced by ever better cell cams? On the other hand, perhaps as more and more people take more and more pictures, an entirely new wave of serious picture takers will emerge and camera sales could actually grow.

When my mother turned 90 last year, I made a 425-page book documenting her life. Several dozen times over the past year, friends—some of whom know not a single person in the book—have found themselves drawn in and have spent more than an hour poring over this book with no words. And yet, there are trend lines that imply the printing business is shrinking, if not dying.

Interesting Times
The pace of change is continuing to accelerate. One prize-winning journalist I know now takes almost half his pictures with an iPhone. What does that say about improvements in that technology? My Tesla is a four-door sedan—with two trunks—that out accelerates a Porsche 911 and never visits a gas station.

Think about the almost vanished travel agency, the disappearing bookstore, the long-gone record store, the prevalence of Amazon as a single-stop shop, and then tell me the world is not changing around us.

I find the changes interesting: I love my Kindle, my mirrorless camera and the fact that I can carry thousands of songs in my pocket. For me, the interesting times are a blessing. The question is: are they a blessing for the photo industry and the photo retail industry in particular?

The Countryside or the Suburbs?
Henry Ford believed the car would allow everyman to spend more time in the countryside. In fact, his cars saw much of that countryside converted into suburbs. Along the way, though, they allowed those same everymen to have a house with a yard and a neighborhood they could call their own.

Pictures or Memories?
Historically, camera dealers have focused on people whose goal it is to take amazing pictures. Certainly this continues to be an interesting business, but it is a limited market. In the last century, the average person took 5,000 pictures in an entire lifetime. Today that same person could take 5,000 pictures in the week after the birth of a child, at a graduation or on a single trip. While unlikely to be sold or published in a magazine, those pictures are all memories.

Gradually, but at a growing pace, people are thinking about what to do about the hundreds of millions (billions?) of slides, negatives and prints that are the memory footprints of our parents, our grandparents and our childhoods. Scanning those pictures is a first step, but once scanned, what then? Trapped on a disk and never shared is not much better than trapped on an album and never shared.

Most recently there is the camera roll. Inside every phone (and iPad) is an ever-growing sequence of pictures. More and more, you’ll see people search for a picture in their camera roll and just give up when they can’t find it.

Changing the Way the World Remembers
My company, Mylio, has set itself the mission of changing the way the world remembers. Perhaps you will want to make it part of your mission, too. The number of pictures in the world is growing at an exponential rate for one reason: People have a hunger to create memories.

You can help them create better memories. That’s what cameras and lenses do. You can help them integrate their old memories. That’s what scanning is about. Most of all, though, you can help them figure out how to manage their memories. That starts at the beginning when photographers learn to be more intentional in how they take their pictures. It picks up momentum when people can bring their pictures together from everywhere—camera roll, camera, scanned images—and manage them as a single collection.

Memories are sacred; that’s why people run into burning houses to save their pictures. How many of your customers have their digital memories protected from household disaster?

All of this and more is an opportunity to reframe our industry. Digital is changing the countryside. Everybody is now a photographer. Everybody. And together we have a chance to help them do the right job with their pictures and their memories.

David Vaskevitch is CEO of MyLO Development LLC, creator of Mylio, a start-up focused on a consumer application for managing photo and video collections. Vaskevitch has been an independent consultant since September 2009. Previously, he served as senior vice president and chief technical officer of Microsoft Corporation from 2001 through 2009, and as senior vice president of Business Applications for Microsoft from March 2000 to 2001.