Friday, January 18, 2008

I love photographs and photography. Always have! I also love looking through old family photographs. Admittedly, I was slow to the digital age, but have jumped in with both feet. Despite my enthusiasm, I think we are over saturated with an abundance of images. Camera phones, digital cameras, video are common place and abundant to the point I feel like every waking moment is recorded.
On our recent trip to Disney World, I shot 482 pictures over 6 days; including an hour of video. That’s 20 roles of 24 exposure film in addition to all the developing cost! Yikes! Digital photos are cheaper, the pictures are amazing; and there are no wasted shots. If it is bad you simply delete it! It’s easier to go through them as well; digital frames, online photo albums and computer software make viewing easy and accessible for family and friends across the country without even so much as a stamp! Digital photography is superior in every respect.
Now contrast that with my parents. They have about 20 or so albums of family pictures. One event, say like a trip to the Grand Canyon, might only have 10-15 pictures! My parents just didn’t take a lot of photos. Certainly not 482 of them. I can’t say that is typical, but it is how they were.
Pictures from smaller point and shoot cameras in the 1970’s were less than stellar in quality. Often pictures were not exposed correctly, the images were grainy and lacked the crisp detail of today’s digital photos! Color was no where near as dynamic as it is now. Yet I can’t help but feel that we lose something in the digital age. Perhaps an overabundance of images makes us less sensitive to the real importance of family photos. Perhaps 20 pictures are more precious and valuable than 482.

A good example is the picture you see with this blog. It’s from October 1975, and one of my all time favorite family pictures. I was 6 and my sister was about 5 months old. It’s not too great a photo, typical of the time. Check out the 70’s orange drapes with the plastic lining, not to mention that carpet. What a decade! Notice that I have a Star Trek action figure, Lt. Uhura, clutched in my hand. Technically it’s not a doll, dolls don’t have phasers! This photo instantly transports me back to that time. I loved all those action figures that I had! Again, not dolls! So much so, that I found the same toys on Ebay. Still newish, they have the same smell that I so distinctly remember. Easily may favorite toys of my childhood!
Notice the action figure on the floor. Any one remember what that one was? Yep, It’s an original Col. Steve Austin The Bionic Man action figure. I’m sure the engine block is not far!
Now, notice the rocking chair. I currently am sitting in it while I write this blog. That chair has rocked myself and my sister as well as both my girls. In fact, not 10 minutes ago my youngest came and sat in my lap and let me rock her! She’s tired and had a boo-boo, and I’m sure felt generous enough to give Daddy some quality time. How great would it be to one day pass it along to my girls and my grand children?
So as you can see, the picture has a lot of details that are special to me. It is these details that make family photos so special. Not that the photos we take now are not special, I just think we lose sight of what is important while trying to document every second of every event.
I feel lucky that my parents took what they did. So many people have only a handful of family photos. Often it is the only connection they have with their past, making them much more valuable. That also makes the details that much more important! That’s how we connect with our past, and that is what family photos are all about!
I have to wonder if 482 pictures will have the same power 30 years from now! I hope so, or I’ve wasted a lot of time taking pictures and shooting video. I suppose 482 versus 10 gives me a better chance to find that all too precious photo. I hope one day, that my children can have a photo that will let them experience the same flood of memories and emotions that I get from that picture! That will make 482 pictures worth it!