My mom is getting her photos organized. I could easily be doing the same with my boxes of photos, but for now I am helping her organize, toss, and establish some order to her stacks of pictures. Recently going through box after box of her photographs with her, I was sent back in time. Memories were uncovered. Past moments that I wouldn’t have remembered if it weren’t for picture proof. Hair styles forgotten, clothes dared to be worn, expressions of joy, surprise, even a glimpse or two of sadness, all evidence of occurrence. Not just a dream or forgotten memory.
The way we take pictures has rapidly changed the last few years.
Everyone has a camera in their phone and I see events, brief moments, being captured in time with a click of button, more now than ever. It used to be phenomena to whip out the big camera, adjust the lens, focus and snap. You wouldn’t see the result until after you took the roll of film to the developer. Now, snap and you can see the result, post it to your friends, mail it to grandma, all in another snap. Yes, the convenience and technological advances are amazing. But my slower to adapt mind wouldn’t mind waiting for the film to develop so I can just be with the experience in front of me, instead of looking at a picture of what my kids are doing. The kids are right there, here in front of me, why am I being sucked in to taking their photo and now standing here looking at it?
What are we hoping to capture? To me the photographs are like words in a diary. Personal, intimate and meant to be viewed at another time not in the moment of the experience. The photo allows you to experience the moment again and again. That’s why I love stumbling across old photos. They are reminders of the past.
As we organize my mom’s photos each now has its own place. Every envelope with its own label: the one for grandchildren, German relatives, trips abroad, friends, family gatherings. I help mom organize the stacks. But it is up to her to keep or toss. And many will be tossed. She was married to a man who loved life and drank it up, but his picture taking ability well…not the best. So there are lots of photos of unidentified objects, darkness, blurs, backs of heads, and about fifty pictures of the same scene. She will look at them, relive the experience, hold the memory in her hand and then keep only the ones she wants to save, to pass on to her children. Valued moments passed on, worth re-living.
Holding on to the things that have a place in my heart and letting go of the ones that don’t. I can do that in my life with more than pictures.
by J.G. McGlothern