In the last 10 years photography has changed drastically. Most would say for the better. But there seems to be a mindset that my generation has gotten into and I believe we are losing a piece of ourselves because of it. That mindset is, if I have a digital file, I can print whenever I want to. Theoretically that is true. But what happens if your CD is corrupted? Your external hard drive fails? The server you use goes down? If you haven’t printed your pictures they are lost forever.
But let’s delve deeper into this. When we don’t print our pictures, we forget about them. We aren’t sharing them with our children and family. Sure Facebook pops up memories for us to look back at. But do you show that memory to your kids? Or do you simply share it on your news feed and move on? Are you talking about your history, who you were, what you were interested in, what you did before the kids came around? Are you talking about those who are no longer with you? This is where I am concerned. We are losing the art of sharing an oral history.
Not so long ago, oral history was how we learned. There wasn’t Google to answer the endless questions of a learning brain. Families sat around the dinner table and shared not only about their day but stories of the people who came before them. As photography became more readily available we used photographs to add to the oral history. When film was affordable you would send off a roll of film and anxiously await your 3x5 or 4x6 prints. The excitement of getting your film back and seeing how your pictures came out was contagious. You would go through your pictures and share them with family. You would display your pictures in a frame, album or on the fridge. As a young student my walls were covered with pictures I had taken. But with putting those pictures up also came talking about them. Sharing those memories with my family and friends. Looking through albums my parents would tell me stories of life before I could remember things for myself. The pictures added to the oral history of my family and cemented memories that would have been forgotten.
Forgotten memories… We won’t be around forever. Life is finite. But so are memories. If we don’t actively think about things that have happened we forget. If we don’t do something with the pictures we have taken, we aren’t sharing that history with our family. I will admit I am as guilty as the next person. I have thousands of pictures of my son and he is only 5 years old. Would he take the time to look through them when I am gone? He wouldn’t have very many memories of his younger years because I haven’t printed the pictures. They aren’t on our walls, in an album or talked about. Our family oral history will be lost if I don’t do something about it. So this year, I made his baby album. And we sat and talked about life when he was so little. We re-started our oral family history. Because our past is important. Talking to each other is important.
So I challenge you! Print your portraits. Put them in an album and on your walls. Talk to your kids about your history. Re-start your family oral history and use portraits to add to the memories. Don’t rely on digital images. They will not be around forever. In life sometimes all we end up with is our memories. Make sure they are strong and vivid in your mind and those you love.