I think the big difference between photography now and photography in the "good old days" of film and printing paper can be found in the sheer investment and risk of the former. While in the days of magical cellphones and instant uploads to sharing sites we have almost zero investment in creating images the days of yore demanded a whole different level of attention and intention on the part of the artist.
This print, above, is from my earliest days as an amateur photographer with a light. I had one flash and a umbrella of some sort. There were no screens to tell you if you got stuff right or if you totally fucked up everything from exposure to flash sync to focus. If you were a poor student with a very small budget you probably developed your own film, which was also fraught with peril. Did you get the temperatures of the chemicals right? Did you agitate the developing tank correctly? Did you dip your film in Photo Flo and distilled water in just the right way to keep the negatives from streaking? Did you dry your film in some area that was relatively dust free? There were never any guarantees in the process and if you did mess up you'd only find out about your mis-steps days or even weeks later. Long after the statute of re-shootablity had expired....
And none of this takes into consideration that learning to print well continues to be a multi-year experience. I got lucky with the print above. I got it with a relatively small investment of test prints and test strips. But to get to this one image there was, for me, a profound investment in time, money and learning curve. There was required investment to even get something so simple and singular. Maybe that's why the end results were so precious to use back then. In a sense we were creating a permanent artifact of our memory and our way of seeing. Not a consumable meant as Facebook candy.
Maybe that is why so many older and more experience photographers have such a hard time letting go of an idea of photography. We hold onto the idea of enduring artifacts that had intrinsic value based on our investments of time and skill. Now, for the most part, we're engaged in a process that's not much different than creating a beautiful and tasty main course for a fine dinner. We might fuss a bit and throw in some lighting and post production but in the end we know that the product is more transient. More....consumable. And we get the sense that we need to increase the output to feed that gaping maw of social sharing. If we want to somehow remain relevant. It's a whole different medium by dint of its use.
The moment that hooked most of us back in 1978 was the moment that your first decent print started forming in a tray of developer under the soft, dim glow of the red safe lights with a little transistor radio humming away in the background. When Belinda's eyes started to come up in the print. That's the moment I decided that I was "all in."