…Except when it isn’t. When you can’t put your hands on a photo when you need it, does it exist? (If a tree falls in the forest….?)
I am many things—(Mom, wife, Gigi, quilter, genealogist, photographer),— as well as a picture framer. The genealogist in me gets crazy when old photos are not preserved, when names and dates are not recorded or when people don’t respect the treasure trove of history they possess. There is hardly anything sadder than wandering through an antique store, and coming upon boxes of old studio portraits, being sold for a buck or two.(That could easily translate to old quilts made by long ago family members that end up under cars, under dogs or in the Goodwill bins, I suppose.)
The first photograph was taken, with an eight HOUR exposure, in 1824. We’ve come a long way, baby. Now we take photos with our telephones—an object that didn’t even exist for at least a quarter century beyond the first photo. (or longer, if you believe Bell invented the phone, not Meucci)
What is the value of this graven image? It is to record history, a moment in time, to hold onto a moment, to jog ones memory, to remind, to reminisce….
I have lamented before that I feel that this generation is going to be the most photographed ever and yet possibly, the most ephemeral. The generations to come will realize our folly and fix it, but this current moment….We take photos with phones, and upload to Facebook. We don’t print. We don’t have high quality images. We have the ability to shoot at 18+ MP yet are recording life at way less than 1 MP. We neglect to upload from our pocket digi until the card is full, and if we are shooting at low res, because we don’t see the value in high-res…well the camera could be stolen or the memory card could fail before we upload the 679 photos that we’ve shot over the course of the life of the camera. (How many cries of “OMG, I lost my phone, my computer crashed “do you have to hear before you realize it could happen to YOU, too??)
We record every bitty thing that happens, but yet. (and yes, it IS on FB….what of it? How do we know we will ALWAYS have access to it? We don’t know. “THEY” can tell us what they like, but….THEY can change the rules, too.)
About a week and a half ago, another woman came into the store, needing to frame an enlargement for a memorial service the next day. The problem?
The woman said the only photo she had of her lovely granddaughter was of her pressed closely into the arms of a second person. And it was a photo from a phone. By the time she had the image cropped to just her, and enlarged to a size large enough to sit by the coffin in at the church, well…. It’s just damned depressing! Why? A beautiful 20-something woman, and her grandmother doesn’t even have a good photo of her.
What is that false vanity that causes current obituaries of 98 year-olds to have a photo taken in 1967 run beside the article, looking as they did—once upon a time, but not in the way that anyone who spent time with them in the last half century might remember…
The number of photos that are brought to me of Grandpa, or Uncle Bill, that are no more than badly lit snapshots– taken with a glass in hand, three empty cans and an empty dessert plate on the side table under that horrid lamp– that are fuzzy, out of focus, poorly lit, and faded–originally a 126 negative (long trashed) and really shouldn’t have survived past the first culling of out of focus shots….now represent the last and final memory we have? That is what becomes the 16×20 graveside image for all the mourners?
There was a blog posted the other day that spoke of taking photos now, not waiting till you are the right weight, etc…and a comment, that the photos of one person’s mom are mostly chemo and post-chemo photos, because the idea of mortality seemed to have reached over the ledge of vanity….
Are there photos of you? Nice enough ones. Not photos where someone snuck up and stole a shot of you before you could put your arms up. Not photos where you feel you look the best you will ever look, because that photo isn’t going to happen, ever, because you know one day you will feel more worthy of being on that side of the camera, but not today. Do you have hands-on access to photos—actual printed copies—of the people in your family?
Can you think of, and find, the most recent photo of you that you LIKE? Is it over a year old? Then you better do something about it.
If you were packing to escape the potential ravages of Sandy right now…. could you lay hands on the photos that mean something? And are there copies on line somewhere? Because it is a blend of both real and digital that creates our world. Digital, cloud-based is all fine and dandy…as long as it isn’t corrupted, and hard copies of photos are great as long as they aren’t burned or flooded…
There was a time, yes. The one existing photo of your great grandmother was standing on the front porch, baby in arms, squinting into the sun so the photo could be taken. Or this, of my Great Grandparents posed precariously in the porch door, at the edge of stairs so they could have a lovely photo. (And aren’t they cute?)
There was a time where photos were not part of every participant with a phone. But that time isn’t today. Do your loved ones a favor and get on the other side of the camera on occasion. And hit up CVS and print some photos for Grandma’s Brag Book while you are at it.
(Here are a few of my older blog posts about how you can organize your photos, places to save them on-line, etc. )