[History by Numbers] Photomania
What did the rise of photography mean for Britain's chickens?
By 1903, the British postal system was winging 613 million picture postcards around the UK alone; by 1906, it was more than 830 million.
A while ago I found myself wondering: how many photographs have ever been taken?
As with so many technology-based developments in society, the figures are massively skewed by recent times. Estimates suggest that the number of photos which are taken in the course of a year is something in the order of 1.8 trillion, and that’s probably a conservative figure (it’s expected to be 2.3 trillion by 2030). That’s at least 57,000 per second, across the world. It is also estimated that the number of digital photos in existence is probably about 12.5 trillion.1
The proliferation of photography has clearly been defined by various milestones. First (after the invention of the medium itself) is the creation of commercial studios. That began with Fox Talbot’s foundation of the Reading Establishment in the 1840s. Next came the advances by Eastman Kodak which brought cameras to public amateurs rather than just the professionals – snapshot photography began with ‘You press the button – we do the rest’ in 1888, and reached mass-market affordability with the Brownie in 1900. The next sea-change came with the similar mass-market availability of digital cameras in the mid-1990s.
Inevitably, precise data is hard to come by: there is no single repository for all of humanity’s photos (‘if only’, we historians might cry!). With regard to numbers of pre-digital photos, I have been trying to track down some credible estimates, at least.