The one question I get asked most when I take photos travelling is 'Do you work for National Geographic?'
The second question, though, is more telling. "Can I have the picture?" Or a hand gesture removing what must be the memory card from my camera. No, you can't have my memory card.
With digital cameras being the camera franca, and images appearing in the Facebook albums rather than bound books, the desire for a physical photo seems antiquated or misplaced. I've made many a promise that 'Tomorrow I'll print one out'. There are at least 35 guys in the souk near my apartment in Egypt that I owe photos to. Tomorrow.
Now, cue two awesome and well-thought-out gifts. The Fujifilm Instax instant camera, and the Polaroid PoGo photo printer. The first pops out an old school idea in new school form. Instant photos spit out of the top of the white camera, and the moment is tangible as the photographer and subject wait in anticipation for the image to appear. If I had a word to describe the subsequent 15 minutes where the person won't take their eyes off the photo, and then carefully tucks the photo into his or her pocket, I'd be working in Fuji's marketing department. I originally saw it used by talented photographer Brian Van Wyk (www.brianvanwykphotography.com) and then one was given to me by my awesome girlfriend as a birthday present.
The PoGo is a small (that's an understatement) printer from a company desperate to keep itself relevant in the digital age. It's roughly the size of a BlackBerry. No screens. One button. 10 prints. No smudges. Just plug in the camera to the printer, and a minute or two later, a photo makes its way out.
These two devices fill a void most photographers suspected existed, but have only now confirmed. They create conversation and trust- two things photographers crave with their subjects. And they can create scuffles in the street. Try dividing a single photo by 15 people.
Even a retired NatGeo editor was taken in by it. "Can I have a print?" he asked.
"Sure!" I said.
"This is your CV, not a picture."
"Hey, I tried."
In the end, he and 30+ other people got photos. And I almost got a job at NatGeo. Almost.