- the past, time gone by
- how things used to be, often ‘the good old times’
- childhood, childhood friends
- growing up
- vacations, trips
- spontaneous moments, highlights, important events
- younger parents and grandparents
- people that may no longer be with us
- a different time and place, different ‘world’
Family photos are so important to us because of all these things they represent, we place value not on the images as objects but on what they remind us of. Film photography had the additional characteristic of being unique because less photos were taken due to a limited amount of film. When I was a child, I remember the little yellow Kodak disposable cameras we used on family vacations and how we took only ‘important’ pictures. They then would be developed and we’d see the precious images, store them in family albums in a small closet just for them (they’re still there, dozens of albums). There’s nothing quite like seeing pictures of your parents, or even your grandparents, when they were your age and noticing the similarities between you, the way they dressed, the friends and family they were near to; these are things that need to be seen, and not just told, to understand.
When my family began using digital cameras, we lost many of my own childhood pictures taken in those years because images were no longer being developed and printed but instead stored in computers and hard drives; we lost them because images became less special as they became digital and because these technologies were not very reliable. Some day I might find them in some wonky hard drive, but until then they don’t exist. So definitely, from experience, I feel that turning over to digital diminishes the significance of family photos by taking away their physicality.
Future generations will have more images of us than I do of my parents and this poses the advantage that they’ll know and see more about us, but I also think that the vast amount of images will make this experience feel less special; the “bad” ones are deleted, there are more selfies than group photos, they’re free of imperfections (both from human and technical error), there are images of absolutely everything and, worse of all, you can scroll through all 8,000 of them in a matter of seconds.
I won’t deny that importance of digital photography. After all, that’s what I use on a daily basis, and I love how easy and fast it is, how I can take quality images and upload them right away. So beyond the process itself, I think the preservation of the images is also something important to think about. I myself have thousands of pictures in my hard drive, the Cloud, the drive, the blogs but not even one that is developed and given a space and sense of permanence. Perhaps this is something to think about, what do we want to show to future generations? What images do we consider important? How do we want them to see those pictures? If I have children, how will they look at the photos of their parents and grandparents? How will that feel for them?