Taking a portrait photography class in college, I had this really sexy teacher. And by sexy, I mean photographer-nerdy-artsy-sexy. I was married at the time and I’m pretty sure he was younger than me- so don’t get your panties all in a wad. It was one of those crushes that only exist in the world of which was my class. But I really did admire him for a lot of reasons. Until one day, when I laughed at him (privately and internally of course) but now regret doing so. On this particular day, he brought in a collection of pictures that he bought off of someone on e-Bay. You see, he was a collector of old photographs and he loved scouring e-Bay for people’s old photos. The reason I thought this was funny of course was because these photos were not of him or his family and friends. He didn’t know these people. He didn’t have relationships with them. He didn’t have any context for the images and what was happening inside of them. So I laughed at him. I thought that was the MOST RIDICULOUS thing anyone could ever do. What a waste of money right?
In this day in age of digital media, it’s really hard not to partake in the ability to keep our photos in the digital world. I mean, what’s not to love about having these photos as a “back up” forever? Or better yet, what’s not to love about the ability to see these photos as much as we want or as little as we want? The funny thing though, is that people don’t do it. Life happens. We get complacent and we forget things. We as a whole, let those images rot on that digital media and we don’t ever celebrate them. (Now, if you are one of those people that clearly is opposite to this, then please forgive me. Good for you for being someone that will routinely take the opportunity to look at your digital memories and revel in them. I’m just saying that it is a true rarity for people to find that time.)
But, studies show that people that look at their photos more often are happier and have kids with higher self-esteem and self-confidence. So how do we take that knowledge and turn it into something that will benefit us? Well duh…PRINT your photos people! While you may love to have the ability to see all your photos on your digital media (and I’m not telling you to take that ability away), this is so important. But after printing them, what do you do next? And why do we keep old photos at all?
First things first, I’m not going to rehash how to keep your photos safe. I’ve done that already and I even have a free download for those interested. (Go ahead and sign up for the download at the bottom of this post.) But rather, I’m going to talk about photos like the piece of history that they are.
Thinking back on the day that my teacher brought in those photos, I never really thought of physical pictures as being a “thing of the past”. Fifteen years later, I see now, that is a huge problem. Our kids will never know the feeling of looking at the old pictures of yesterday and feeling them in their fingers. They won’t see the color differences comparing real-life vs. what’s actually “coming out” on the image. That is, they won’t know those feelings unless we give them that power. The power to see their images in print and the power to keep them, relive them often, and show them to their own children. Technology is changing daily and pictures are becoming more “real life” than ever before. With today’s photo editing software, today’s pictures are becoming larger than life and “better” (subjectively) than ever before. But the power behind a photograph is more than a memory, it’s history in the making. Everything about old photos screams history! The clothes, furniture, and landscapes are all important features of the past. What would happen if we didn’t have any photos of the World Trade Centers before their fall in 2001? What would it be like to not have photos of a volcano before its last eruption? What would people do on movie sets without pictures of history so that they can properly examine how to replicate different era’s for their film? (And yes, I realize that last one is a stretch- but what can I say? I love my movies.)
So, I look back on this day in my class and I wish I hadn’t laughed. I wish we, as a whole, took this situation a little more seriously. We need to switch our focus to looking at old photos as a history lesson. Not of the history of technology and cameras going from old to new, glass plates to digital jpg’s, but rather a history lesson of how we behaved, learned, and did things in the past. I’m not laughing at my teacher now, I’m looking at him as a person to revere. If only we all valued photographic prints more in this way.
P.P.S. Do you want to schedule me as your photographer when I move to Idaho? Go ahead and sign up for my waiting list! You will get $100 free off your next session and get first dibs on when I open up in the new area. Don’t miss out!