Remembering Photos in a Digital Age
My great-grandfather wore a bowtie on his wedding day.
Both of my grandmothers were petite.
My dad once had a healthy handlebar mustache.
It’s always informative, and at the very least entertaining, to go through the loose pictures and the few photo albums we have that hold most of our family history. Hearing stories about and seeing the faces of grandparents and great-grandparents, and of Dad and Mom when they were younger, has shaped how I’ve come to think about myself, my place in our family, and my role in the world in general.
But I wish there was more to go on.
Mom always says, “If you didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen.” It used to make me laugh, but as I’ve gotten older and really wanted to find out more… She’s right. So much has been lost to us over the years because there simply aren’t pictures.
Sometimes I think it’s getting better, that the children and grandchildren of the digital age will have so much more of our history and their history to hold onto; sometimes I think it’s getting worse, because it’s so easy to take pictures that we don’t take it seriously any more. We take them so quickly; we lose them so quickly.
I have a friend, Katie, whose mom has made her a photo book of every year of her life since, I don’t know, middle school? Like seriously, every year her mom has gathered pictures of her on trips, of her with her friends, of her different accomplishments, of her doing every-day kinds of things. She gathers them, uploads them to some online photo-book making site, and every year Katie gets a new book to put on her shelf. She laughs about it, but her kids won’t. How great for them… to have years and years of her life recorded in books they can pull off the shelf and look through. “When Mom was my age…” And as they go through them they’ll start finding themselves in her life too. And they’ll know where they fit.
Obviously not all of us are going to make yearbooks for ourselves or our kids, but maybe we can do more of that kind of thing. I’m starting slowly, printing off pictures here and there and sticking them between the pages of my journals, even pictures just off my cellphone, to keep more memories, for me and for the ones who come after.
We’re all leaving someone a legacy. Let’s give them more good to go on.
Something to think about as the final installment in my photography series on Capturing the Moment. If you missed the introduction, read it here. Find the second installment of the series, My Pictures and Me, right here and the third installment in the series is right here: My Pictures and Others.