Photography is one of the few ways the average person can create a visual memory of himself and his loved ones. While the shoebox of photos is the thing that we say we would save from a fire, most often those same photographs end up lost or destroyed through mindless neglect. For my own part, I lifted all of our family photos out of the house when I found them in the basement or crumpled in piles. Old prints will fade and discolour, but for the most part I can rework them in Photoshop so that they look as good as they did 40 years ago. I cannot fix that they were taken with consumer cameras by crazy relatives, but that is fine. I like them that way.
Tonight, I decided to go sifting through my boxes and see what I might find. I ended up scanning a photo of my family on my brother’s first birthday – 36 years ago. Four people are no longer alive, but the rest remain with life kicking them along each day. People are happy. The pose is relaxed. Weird bits of furniture litter the scene and the paper has been damaged by water. When I see this image, I see both of my grandmothers and my mother; I also see Great Uncle Walter, the scoundrel and funny man he was. How often do people disallow photographs to be taken because they feel fat or tired-looking or because “I never look good in photos!”? In hindsight, we always look thin and better than when time has ravaged us, so never let an extra burger in your belly deter you from may be your only chance at a snapshot from the past.
The second photograph was taken at the top of Mount Sinai, after sunrise. While this is not my real family per se [ V. is], this group of people were kind to me when my world had fallen apart and I was still reeling from a separation that had happened just three weeks earlier. Charlie, the lunatic with the turban reminds me of Uncle Walter, and the others each played a role in my return to the real world. V. and I have now been together for three years. Agnes ended up becoming a teacher in Ontario [though I have not seen her in years], but the others are lost except for this photograph. Nostalgia is a wondrous emotion. Do not deny yourself – PRINT YOUR PICTURES. You just never know when a solar flare is coming to wipe out your hard drives, after all.