The Sentimental Value of Photographs in the Digital Age
Moving from a small, closet-free one bedroom apartment to a house with multiple closets and a storage shed was fantastic. Finally, space to tuck away all six moving boxes full of my grandparents photo albums, hundreds of loose prints and negatives from growing up, and dozens of old, framed family photos. It's been over 5 years since that move and the photos are still sitting in those boxes in the closet, out-of-site and out-of-mind. Or at least they were until this past summer. The High Park Fire came within 5 miles of our house and folks just a couple miles from our house were evacuated. With the air smokey and fire-fighters pouring into town from all over the country, my husband and I began to think we should prepare to evacuate as well, just in case.
Though we never had to evacuate, it was a good exercise to think what we take with us. Not surprisingly, first on our list of things to take were those family photos. Though rarely seen, they are perhaps our most valuable possessions. So much emotion and our sense of identity are tied to these printed moments of our younger days, of friends and family that we will never see again, of ancestors we've never met.
During those smokey and scary days in June, I moved those boxes of photos into my bedroom, not only for quick access should we need to leave, but also to remind myself that such precious items should be organized, preserved and shared. I quickly got lost in memories flipping through pictures of my childhood and pulled a few very special ones out of the piles to put on my bedside table.
Of course, the vast majority of my family's memories for the past decade are not in those boxes. They are scattered among various computers, burned CDs, external hard drives and social networks. Though I love seeing the stream of family and friend's photos pop up in social networks, email and my phone, there is something wonderful about a print of a special picture. Lucinda Rosenfeld wrote a touching piece in a recent NY Times mentioning her need for printed photos of her recently deceased father that really resonated with me. I want something to touch, something to glance at as I move about my day: taped to the refrigerator door, sitting by my keyboard or flipped by in my wallet.
Fortunately, it is easier than ever to make a special image a tangible, physical part of everyday life, and not just in a 4x6 print: you can make books, magnets, calendars, postcards, t-shirts, coffee mugs, birthday cakes, jewelry, tattoos, teapots, ornaments, playing cards, etc. The list goes on and on. And instead making a physical print of all 36 images on a roll of film, we now have the luxury of choosing which special memories or moments to make physical parts of our lives. No more double copies of slightly out-of-focus or badly framed shots.
I adore the our custom calendar hanging in our kitchen made from photos of my daughter. I look at it every day and it makes me smile. And even though I have all of those photos tucked away somewhere on my computer, that calendar is, of course, marked to go in the box of things to take with us in a disaster.