It seems like such a crazy thing to me. I don’t own a camera anymore, but I take more pictures than I ever have – usually of things that have little importance. My iPhone camera roll contains dozens of images of sleeping wiener dogs, drinks served at restaurants, and grocery items dropped in places of the store they don’t belong. (Yes, the grocery store pictures are a thing. Check out Google images of “a decision was made here.”) Photos, like everything else, have certainly changed over the years.
And what about photo albums? Does anybody still do this? I realize it’s super convenient to take, view, and store pictures on electronic media, but some of the viewing pleasure is lost. Oh sure, it’s great to have a friend who scrolls through their phone to show you every picture they’ve taken since they’ve seen you last (NOT!), but there is something satisfying about sitting on the couch with an old time photo album in your lap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as anybody else. In fact I’ve dismantled numerous old family albums in an effort to scan, save and share the photos with my siblings. Unfortunately, now I have boxes, Ziploc bags, and storage totes full of photos (some scanned, some not) and I’m not sure which I’ve shared and which still need to go through the process. UGH! I’m usually pretty organized. I have no idea how my photo situation got so out of control.
A stranger looking at some of our older family photo albums might conclude that we were in the witness protection program. Our photos feature fuzzy faces because the shot wasn’t focused, poor lighting, and backs of heads and heads cut right out of the shot.
One of my favorites is a picture of my sister and her prom date. It’s a nice shot of an expanse of wood paneling, an earnest looking young man in a tuxedo and my sister’s arm.
And still, I LOVE going through those old albums. Most of my early life, and that of my siblings, was captured in black and white. But it appears my folks may have splurged on a roll of color film when I was born, as there is a brief series of color photos in the album around that time. Mom and me. Dad and me. My sister and me. My other sister and me… you get the idea. I know we are fortunate to have so many family pictures from when we were kids, and I’m grateful for all of them. Even the bad ones. Woe to you if you were the tallest person in the picture. I usually fared pretty well as I was youngest and shortest, but I still took my share of “chop shots.”
With today’s technology, we’re able to just keep taking the picture until we’re satisfied with it. In ‘the old days’ we were flying blind. We took the picture and hoped for the best. The film usually sat in the camera for a couple months, and by the time the pictures were sent in to be developed, you got what you got. Sometimes the anticipation of waiting for them to be developed (5 – 10 days) was increased by the mystery of not remembering exactly what the picture would reveal.
We placed much of the blame for these bad pictures on my mother, and teased her frequently.
My brother: “Who took this picture?”
Me: “Who do you think?”
My brother: “What is it?”
Me: “Me, riding down one of those giant slides.”
My brother and I were laughing recently about some of these pictures. “And we put them in albums,” I said laughing so hard I had to stop to catch my breath.
He defended the action, although he was also laughing. “They cost money to develop, and they were all we had.”
But all these years later, these bad family photos are some of our favorites. They remind us of family events and the stories that accompany them. The ‘background noise’ of these picture is full of memories and things we may not have noticed before. “Is that Dad in the background doing dishes?” “Oh my gosh! Remember that wall paper and shag carpeting?” Even the junk on the counter that seemed embarrassing at the time is now full of sentimental reminders. I recently posted a photo on our family Facebook page and said, “There is SO MUCH going on this picture. I just don’t know where to start.” My sister said it all in her response. “Looks like home.”