I was out and about this past weekend and was visiting my elderly parents. As you might imagine, they are getting up in age now and more and more doing old people things. My dad has been going through things and sorting them out and giving them to me and my siblings as he says, “So we don’t have so much shit to go through after I’m dead.” Dad always was pretty straight forward. Among the things he gave me was a large plastic container stuffed with old pictures. He didn’t know what to do with them so he told me to take them and go through them, tossing the ones I didn’t care about and keeping whatever I liked.
It’s amazing how people took the time to take photos of all sorts of things. I mean, I have a phone that will take pictures and yet I hardly have any. Back in the day, one had to go get the camera, make sure it had film, take a picture and then go have the film developed. I’ve got pictures of all sorts of random stuff, people whom I have no idea who they are as well as pictures of myself in my youth. Honestly looking at the pictures of my young self, I’m not sure I even know who that guy was. I suppose this all got me to feeling a bit melancholy. After having gone through these I was thinking about the lost art of taking pictures with camera and film. We have high definition digital cameras, hell the cameras built into our phones take higher quality pictures than the cameras people used to use.
And yet who is ever actually going to look at them? You take a picture with your phone but when your phone is obsolete in six months, how many people actually save the photos they took? How many people actually have those photos printed out to put in a box somewhere? Now some would argue that digital is better since the pics will never fade but I think that so many will be simply lost that fading is a non issue. Let’s say you do save every picture to an SD card or flash drive. How many people someday will actually take the trouble to plug it in to see what pictures are actually on there?
More than likely in the hustle and bustle of things they will be simply tossed without a second thought………and the memories contained tossed right along with them.
There is something about rifling through a box full of old pictures. Some of the images captured you can remember the moment, others are long forgotten and you find yourself struggling to recall exactly what it is you were doing and who that guy is in the background. Old photos cause you to recall times when the old people were young and vibrant, even younger than you are now which tends to make you feel old, especially as you now look at that once young and vibrant couple tottering around on a cane talking about their weekly trips to the doctor that you really don’t care about but listen to feigning interest anyway. In the back of your mind a voice keeps reminding you that after they’re gone, you’ll be next. The thing about death is we all get a turn at some point.
When you go through old photos of what appear to others as mundane events, to you they can remind you of much more. To everyone else it may look like a picture of you at a party or perhaps out fishing but when you see that same picture, you immediately remember that behind this seemingly mundane event you were going through a very painful time. While the photo itself may not have captured what you were going through, you yourself will be instantly reminded of that time. It’s a part of human nature to not want to recall such things. It’s all too easy to simply hit the “delete” button in this digital age. Photos, not so much. I came across some such photos. My first reaction was to throw them out. After having slept on it overnight I think I’ll keep them.
People used to be obsessive about taking photos. While I have to admit that people are still obsessive about taking photos to say that it’s different now would be an understatement.
In days gone by, pictures were almost always focused on others. Be they family, close friends or what we thought at the time were memorable events, we wanted to capture those images so that someone someday could look upon them again and remember. Today people snap pictures with their smart phones almost incessantly but the focus of the subject matter is almost universally the same; themselves. I have to believe this is yet another example of people only finding value in themselves and their own existence by pretending to be some sort of celebrity. Think about it, how many people in a couple of generations from now are going to look at your selfie and wonder or care who you are? Yet it makes people feel as though they are important in the moment.
It’s a lie.
In the age of so called Instagram models and wanna be Facebook celebrities we as a society spend most all of our time navel gazing. Instead of focusing on those in our lives who should be important, those who will be gone someday or those who will want to remember us when we ourselves are gone, we instead jockey for “likes” on a post that to be honest nobody really likes. Nobody is going to go back when you are gone and say, “Hey, remember when this person took this selfie outside of the store after a big shopping trip?” Indeed what a shallow self centered society we’ve become. We no longer attempt to capture important moments but instead attempt to find some sort of importance or meaning to our lives in our own solipsism. It never ceases to amaze me how many things we’ve lost. Things both big and small. Things that you don’t even realize you’ve lost until you go through something so seemingly trivial as a box of old photos.