I have recently posted a blog (Why I like to look up sometimes) on the Sticky Fingers Gallery. The gallery is a brilliant idea, offering bloggers the opportunity to submit a post with photos on a weekly theme, the last of which was ‘nature’. I focused on the sky, as my camera is often trained upwards to capture the different patterns and changing light.
It started up a train of thought that led to me asking my daughter Evie, very nicely, to go up into the horribly dusty, messy loft space and bring down the big box of photographs showing us all in various stages of growth and aging. I like the early ones best – I am slimmer, younger (obviously) and look rather less worn out, even though in some of the photos I am clearly just about to dive out of the shot to stop one or other of my twosome throwing themselves into some unseen danger. The more recent ones in the box hold their fascination too, and there is also the thrill you get when you find an old photo that adds a new dimension to a recent one. In the two shots below, Evie and her friend Harriet. The one on the right was taken only last week.
Checking through old albums is more than a nostalgia trip. The clothes we wore in the ’90s are all back in Top Shop now any way, so in essence I could publish them and we would look like 21st Century 20 somethings. The difference for me is how few of the photos there are. Clearly there were many you would not want to show off – at least without boring friends and family comatose. This is because although I have always shot with an SLR, it was not until recently digital. 36 shots had to last at least 3 days of a holiday for example or I knew we would be bankrupted by developing costs. So the few really good shots have become particularly precious, posted in an album and regularly compared to ones of my mum and dad’s generation and older to compare for likenesses. In short, they are part of our family history. Some of them I feel are lovely enough to grace the wall, for a while at least, like the one below. Others I can feel proud of as my own creative achievement.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else but I am not nearly disciplined enough with my digital shots. Loving the freedom a digital camera offers I take hundreds and then upload the whole lot onto the computer. I post my favourite few on facebook and the rest sit in folders on my hard drive, rarely seeing the light of day. I know as a keen amateur I should be more selective and delete the ones that are wonky or are people shots with vital bits of body missing. These are usually ones taken by my husband or kids ‘just to have a go’ and it is why I don’t really feature in holiday snaps, as they rarely chop off a bit of body I wouldn’t miss, like my a**e, so I tend to mill around in the background pretending to belong to someone else. I know I should also make sure that of the 10 almost identical shots I take, 9 go straight in the recycle bin, and I should make up virtual albums and share them on flickr so they are indelibly floating in cyberspace and not subject to the panic of a computer malfunction.
I think my reluctance to do this is because, however much photography has changed and no matter how much easier it has become to create and delete, there is still something that stops me throwing a photo away. Whether James and Evie are smiling or frowning; whether the sun is shining or we are all wrapped up and wet in waterproofs looking grumpy; whether that really atmospheric shot of trees I though I was taking just looks like I forgot to take the lens cap off, they are all brief moments in our lives captured forever on film or hard drive. It is a memory frozen in time and my trashing them – virtually or physically (can you tear a photo of your children in half? I can’t) – we are forever casting that moment into oblivion.
I have a page on my blog where I am going to post some of the photos I have taken, partly to share them if anyone is interested and to pick up tips from people who really know what they are doing. However I also want to ensure that by taking time and choosing carefully the value of what I have done can be measured by the love put into it and the effort I have taken to preserve it. For me, that is the real art of memory.