Monday, September 26, 2016

Photographic memory


"Long ago it must be, I have a photograph 
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you"
--Bookends, "Simon and Garfunkel"
I have always been fascinating by photographs. I would flip through the photo albums my mom kept in her cedar hope chest. Or I'd sort through boxes of photos my grandmother had. At the time all of the photographs were black and white.

My mother had an old Kodak camera that she'd bring out for holidays, birthdays and vacations. It was the type where you'd flip up the top and hold the camera chest level and look down into a viewfinder that displayed a murky mirror image of what the lens was seeing. It was strictly black and white. And the photos always seemed blurry and off center.



To my mother's credit, she also had regular family portraits done at a professional photographer's studio. I'm assuming she got a package deal. Here are a couple from 1963:

I was too young at the time to understand the fashion mistake of wearing plaid.

I remember this photo being taken. I was five. It was the Idaho State Centennial year. We had these funky "pioneer ties." I was upset when we got to the photographer's because we'd left mine at home (it was lime green). Fortunately the photographer had a spare. In retrospect I'm glad I didn't wear the green tie.
Photography technology was evolving rapidly. I was passing through a local drug store with my mom when a store product demonstrator took this instant photo series of me. I believe I was six years old at the time.


My mom eventually swapped her old Kodak camera for a newer model that accepted color film cartridges and used flash cubes. The quality of the images were slightly better.


And the family portraits were now in color.

Although old enough to know better, I still wore a Disco Flight polyester suite.
I eventually got my own camera. I used a 35mm SLR for awhile. Here was one of my first selfies.


I also had a 2x2 camera that I only experimented with once and just had a single proof sheet printed. And I experimented with hand coloring black and white photos (I fancied myself an artist at one time before I knew better). But it did take selfies to a new level (not necessarily higher).


Eventually I began experimenting with digital photography.  And I began seeing it take over in the advertising world I worked in.


Now film is archaic. I have several digital cameras. But my smartphone now takes high quality photos as well so I am afraid dedicated cameras will eventually fade away as well.

What prompted this stroll down photography lane was when I opened up my Amazon cloud drive and discovered I have more than 91,000 digital images uploaded. I pointed out to my wife that my children's lives will be completely digitally documented whereas she and I only have a few blurry photos of our childhood. She pointed out to me that they never see the digital memories because they are all floating around in the cloud.

To remedy that I've begun creating these printed photo books via blurb.com so there is a physical version available if anyone wants to flip through the pages of their lives rather than scroll through them.

It strikes me I've come full circle with my photographic memories. Because it is nice sometimes to just sit down and turn the pages of time rather than have them blip by me on a screen. I really do believe you must preserve your memories. After all, they are all that's left to you.

1 comment:

Helen Baggott said...

Those photos are a wonderful social history - not just of your family but of those times. I too produce photo books. It's important to try and retain some of the old 'paper' records.