photo by Sheri Dixon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Minor Oversight in Technology

Once upon a time there was a family photo album.

It was huge and heavy and velvet-bound with gold edged cardboard pages. There was a brass clasp that kept it closed.

This treasure was in my grandmother's basement. She had no idea who any of the people were in it- somber folks looking out at us beyond my grandmother's memory, but I knew they were my kin, and they became special to me. I'd look through it, carefully remove the photos from their paper cornered confines and peer at the backs of them trying to decipher spidery translucent webs of writing...or were they just cracks in the ancient paper? Most were on heavy textured paper stock but a few were etched onto tin.

The photos were all posed- persons young and old, all dressed in their best and all somberly unblinkingly gazing at the birdie and I can hear the pop, see the flash and smell the acrid smoke- capturing in the literal flash of time a wedding, birth of a child, family reunion, baptism.

I lost the album in one of my moves and still grieve for it, my mind's eye can see the exact fading green of the velvet and feel the faded spot where it'd been opened a million times.

My dad is a professional photographer. For years he was a professional newspaper photographer.

I grew up in a house with a dark room in the basement and a police radio in the car.

Cameras were very important to us, and by default, the photographs they created.

Like a lot of kids, my first camera was a little Brownie box camera and I took carefully chosen photos of my parakeet, and flowers in the yard, and my family.

When my dad retired one of his work cameras- too many close calls at football games, too much banging around in the car or off his shoulder or getting dropped on, off or into any number of places cameras were never made to go, Nikkormat retirement merely meant *I* got to haul it around- on camping trips and for school newspaper assignments and later on to record my own children's milestones.

These photos were not posed, generally- at least not in the stiff formality of the photos of the album- photographs had become less time-intensive to process and film was reasonably inexpensive. I was careful to "lay out" the photo in my head and waste as little film as possible- except for some leeway with exposure and speed, what you saw through the viewfinder was what you'd get from the negative.

And I have a huge boxful of photos- kids, family, pets, vacations...I can sift through them and hold them in my hands- surrounding myself with the bits and pieces of my life, my loves, my history.

It took years, absolute years before I jumped on the digital wagon. I clung to my old SLR film camera way past the time most people did and I survived the ridicule the sight of my old trusty camera elicited.

*Didn't I know digital could take about a gabazillion photos without wasting one piece of paper?

*Didn't I want the ability to fix, adjust, crop or otherwise make more appealing any photo I took through the magic of computer software easy enough for even ME to comprehend??

*Wasn't I aware that I could store THOUSANDS of photos on a single disc or thumb drive instead of worrying about negatives and several hundred pounds of prints???

So I fell, and I've been assimilated. I've been using and enjoying the Kodak Easyshare cameras (I'm on my 3rd one) but will be upgrading to a Panasonic (with a Leica lens) in the near future. My old Kodak is on its last legs and the company no longer makes cameras of any stripe.

And it's all true. I have thousands of photos stored on thumb drive, disc and computer. I can alter them as I please, as many times as I wish.

But there's always been a tiny twinge of unease...and today I realized what it was.

Years from now- say 75 or 100 years from now, when Alec's grandchildren are going through stuff and they find a disc, or a thumb drive in a drawer or a closet

how will they see the magic there?

There won't be a computer alive that will be able to read and decipher the precious memories held there,

no way to touch them, look into eyes long gone, feel a connection even if ever so faint.

We have millions of digital photographs recording a history that is bound to be lost.

Methinks I need to have some printing done...


  1. I take digital and print out my favorites. I have felt that the photo album is still the best place to store these treasures.

  2. I know I also need to do some printing. The cost is daunting, so I put it off, accumulating even more that need printing. Vicious, I tell ya...vicious.