Photographic Memories


Pictures aren’t important like they used to be when we were young. There was a time when we used to actually have to go out and buy special film and put it into a specific camera and take it to special place to be developed and then you had to wait a week for your pictures to come back. Then they got really technologically advanced and came out with places like Fotomat that offered 24 hours turnaround. At some point drugstores and grocery stores and department stores all started offering the services…soon they went to one hour turn around. You would drop off you film in a store at the mall and come back in and hour, sometimes sooner, and your pictures would be ready. No every phone and everything has a camera, our cars have cameras people are wearing cameras, what could only once be imagined in science fiction is now commonplace but people take pictures now, look at them the instant they take them and then unless there is a reason to return to those memories at some point the pictures are often never looked at again.

I have lost so many photos, from digital cameras I never bothered to save or print that have been lost or simply stopped working. At least one camera the batteries burst and the acid destroyed it so all the photos I had taken were gone. I spent the years scanning my old family pictures, the photos my husband and I have taken over the last 35 years, my mother’s photos I inherited. I was so confident that these new digital version would be around forever that generally I destroyed or threw away the hard copies, I created a binder with thumbnail pictures and categorized all my photos first on 3.5 floppy discs, then CD’s, and then DVD’s. I have photos on external hard drives, photos on my phone, and photos on my cameras (and I have about 5 or 6 cameras floating around this house). I was smart enough to keep the very old photos, those very old photos unique old photos that will never be able to be replaced or taken in the same way. The old 1930s and 1940s black-and-white photos that were taken of my mother as a child and other ancient relatives long dead. I try to make sure that those type of photos, even though I scan them, I hang on to the originals so I will always have them, actual physical pictures that were touched by my mother, her mother, her father and their parent. Photos that have a history.

Today you go to a party and you take 50 or 60 photos, lots of people you don’t know and will never see again yet for a while you keep the photos then over time you start deleting them in order of importance. First the people you don’t know but just had a good time with, unless the memory was really special, but you know, that stranger you sat next to at a company Christmas party who after 5 or 6 cocktails was your best friend. Then after they are gone you start deleting the photos of those closer to you or your pets or objects, especially when you realize you’ve taken 10 photos of virtually the same person just with their hands or heads in different places.

Now today, in many cases, I have whittled most of my photos of strangers and acquaintances to one or two. I try to keep at least one photo of that person I sat next too at that Christmas party or social gathering whatever it may have been. I’m just amazed how unimportant photos have become. Gone are the days of pulling out the big photo album, so I guess the notion of photos in their historic form and importance is a form of Saudade. Gone forever, never to return.

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