Family albums were big in my day and I am really not that old. I was a swinging 60s baby. And as a family we put great store by taking photos. Memories captured by a Kodak Brownie or the instant Polaroid. The Brownie was special and it was colour. Remember when you had to wait for a film to be developed? The Polaroid on the other hand was instant but black and white.
We had lots of photo albums
Memories of mine and my brothers’ first bath (not together you understand). Singing on stage at a holiday camp in Prestatyn. I was born to perform. Posing in my bikini the back garden. Me as a bridesmaid.
And then there were the school photos too. Group photos were the thing in my early years. I don’t remember when they started to become individual shots — but I do know those in later years were declined “how much? No thanks, we can take our own”. I had my own camera by the time I was 13.
So, just when did digital take over? I don’t mean the digital camera. I mean the whole concept of the storing memories digitally.
Flickr is probably my own first personal memory of a new age of storing picture memories. But even they came from a camera. Was that the start perhaps? The start of an age where the photo album is no longer king. Where framed family photos, dusty and faded, are finally taken off the wall now “I have tons of photos on my phone”.
Is it a generation thing?
Perhaps printed photos, which gather dust and fade, are a generation thing or just for special occasions. maybe a gift for Nana. We still receive school photos of nieces and nephews. But I wonder just how long it will be before those images can only be viewed from a link.
In fact, does anybody print good old fashioned family photos anymore. Or has baby’s first year become an ever expanding Facebook album, shared with your 437 friends? That wedding we went to, your lad’s first footie game, your daughter’s award. Where are those memories? All stored on a Cloud — or Instagram — or Facebook.
Don’t get me wrong
I see the benefits. I can see recalling a photo is convenient. Almost. No more crawling into the loft to find the wedding albums. Not restricted to how many you can squeeze onto 24 pages, every moment of your life can be captured in an instant. And shared with the world if you so wish.
I guess the planet will thank us for not printing so much these days. Paper, chemicals, inks, power. But what about the alternatives? All these servers churning away?
I guess what really bothers me is, entrusting our memories forever more to a digital place. Up on a Cloud, where nobody ever looks at them. Mr Smith is a talented photographer. But he keeps his images mostly in storage. I think they should become a legacy. So, too, should our memories. Memories of how we lived, the holidays we took, the people and places we loved, they should live on after we are gone. For future generations to look back on. But who will know they are even there?
The print and album generation will be just fine, their albums and memories will be passed on. Parents and grandparents will leave this earth, comforted by the fact someone will love their albums — perhaps.
But what happens next?
What happens when it is the turn of the digital generation to pass over?
“And I leave my Cloud password to my daughter”.
I don’t know about you but somehow that doesn’t have quite the same appeal as holding family memories in my hand. Turning the leaves of an album of faded photos. An album which is how you remember it as a child, even down to its smell. But I think the family album, in its truest sense, has probably had its day.
Now, photo books, that has my attention. Combining digital with something tangible. Now we could be onto something there. But that’s a debate for a whole new day.
©Marie T Smith (She Wordsmiths..)
Marie also writes for Medium as @marietsmith