These are my friends, they came to visit me and my family here in Vegas. I showed them around the Arts District here, where I took this picture. This shot is slowly becoming one of my favorite shots I’ve taken of people.
They are old friends and part of the ritual with old friends coming to visit is to break out the photo albums and reminisce about old times.
I haven’t looked at our photo albums for a while. I’m sad to say they have been buried at the back of our closet since we’ve moved here. One thing I was immediately struck by was how abruptly I stopped putting photos in these albums.
I’m extremely proud of my photo albums. I have spent years collecting old photos of my parents and my immediate family. The beginning pages are little treasure troves of black and white shots, some dating back to the 1930s, and then moving forward though early color film, Polaroids, and a lot of stuff from the 1970s, all drenched in those warm hues that Instagram and Lightroom plug-ins so desperately try to copy but never really get right.
My wife and I were married in 1995, and we have lots of shots from around that time, up to when my first child was born. And then, it just stops. I mean stops dead. Nothing. You can almost hear the grinding of the brakes as that train screeches to a halt.
What is weird is that this stop pretty much coincides with the time I went back to college to finish up my degree in Art (long story). Part of that was taking photography classes. I was even shooting film with my classic Pentax K-1000. In short, there was no excuse for me not to be taking some snapshots of my kids, my wife, my family, my surroundings. And putting them into an album. And I have no reason why I stopped.
The old adage is that you should never buy a car from a car mechanic. I think it’s the same for us shutterbugs; photographers seldom settle for simple photo album snapshots.
My lack of effort on maintaining my photo albums feeds into a larger concern I have with photography today. I have talked before about “What Is Truly Wrong With Photography Today.” The problem I wrote about in that blog was about presentation. I don’t believe we can truly appreciate great photography on little tiny smart phone screens. Photography is a medium where great presentation reaps great rewards.
But presentation isn’t just about luminous mats and luxurious frames. Presentation should also be about collecting and presenting photographs in some sort of context. This is me at my first birthday. This is the Christmas I got my new bicycle. This is us before we were married. This is us at the Grand Canyon. This is my mother holding our first child. This is us at the hospital.
I believe that photography is all about narrative. We are all made of stories. And if we aren’t saving and sharing these stories, in some sort of context, then what is the purpose?
Which means, it’s not only about presentation, but also about preservation. With smart phones, point and shoots and inexpensive DSLR’s, everyone is a photographer. And everyone is taking loads of photos. Every day. Every hour. I can’t hardly keep up with the photostreams of my flickr friends, or everyone I know on 500px. Then add Twitter, Instagram, facebook, Pinterest, and so on. And, no doubt, I am contributing to this glut as well.
But, honestly, where will all these shots be in 10 years? 20? 100 years? Really think about what we are saving to share for our future gatherings? For our family yet to come? In the future, will we simply have electronic photo albums that just gather dust in the back of our closets? What will we share when old friends come over in their hover cars?
When was the last time you printed out a snapshot and put it in a photo album?