I love my technology. I am more tethered to my phone than I want to admit. I use my tablet for a variety of reasons – both professional and personal – throughout the day. My television is delivered via the internet. Even my car knows how to communicate with my devices and with me.
Technology has opened all sorts of new doors for us in photography, too. We don’t worry about film. We can see an image as soon as we take it (usually with our “phones”). We fix (almost) everything after the picture has been taken. We upload it to the cloud where our friends (and who knows who else) can share the experience with us. And those devices I mentioned have become de facto photo albums for us.
I get it. I understand it. And, for the most part, I like it. Can you hear the “but” coming?
Technology can only take us so far. Once in a while, we need to step out of the virtual world, and get our hands on something “real”.
I am a fan of printed photographs. Until a decade, or so, ago, that statement would have been unnecessary and even ridiculous. It was the only way you could see a picture. You had to print it on paper, or some other tactile medium. Our phones and social media have changed all that.
Be that as it may. I still prefer prints. So much so, that I rarely deliver digital images to my clients. But that is a subject for another day.
I was reminded of one of the many reasons that I love printed photographs last month. My mother-in-law passed away the week before Christmas. My wife, her siblings, those of us who have married into the family and most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren all gathered at her father’s house for a few days. It was a bittersweet time, to say the least.
Our last day there, just a couple of hours after the memorial service, my father-in-law pulled out the old family albums. My wife and her siblings laughed together as they were transported back, nearly a lifetime ago, reflecting on memories, clothing styles, THAT car, trips, holidays, and all of the other things that make up a family history.
The grandchildren were introduced to people and times that they did not know. In an odd way, I was watching parents and children make new memories, around old photographs. That’s the thing about photographs. They take you back, almost viscerally, to the moment the image was made.
And all the while my father-in-law smiled. For a few minutes his pain was diminished. He relished those memories and shared stories with his grandchildren that they will probably never forget. And he enjoyed the sight of seeing his family together, laughing in spite of their circumstances.
No one pulled out a tablet or a phone to scroll through their galleries. They all just huddled around, and held, those books and those prints.
Somehow, they just felt right.