Many say that this new digital age of high speed internet and instant gratification is the highest point in our civilization thus far. Clicking away on your iPhone, documenting your latest trip to our city’s fabulous Centennial Gardens? With but a wiggle of your fingertips, your Houston photography can be shared all over the world via Facebook, Instagram or any other media in an instant… it’s almost magical. But now one of the most magical experiences is fading into history: the photo album. No I’m not talking about your online photo albums. I’m talking about the leather bound perfection that grandma used to sit down with you and flip through, relaying whimsical stories and the history behind each photo. You would sit mesmerized by the funny styles of clothes and hair of bygone eras, wonder at the youthful beauty of your parents and grandparents, see family characteristics spanning generations. You’d relive the trips to Galveston, water skiing on Lake Travis, climbing Enchanted Rock, or just building a fort in your cousin’s backyard. Moments of family get-togethers, silly faces and laughter, forever captured on film and laid out in pages of history.
In today’s age, where is that history? Maybe it’s backed up on a thumb drive, disc or external hard drive if you are diligent, but sadly most people are just relying on the cloud or praying their smartphones don’t die or get stolen. When you lose that fancy new phone, the price may sting, but it’s always the irreplaceable memories that hurt the most. To quote Rutger Hauer in the movie Blade Runner “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
I’ve had countless friends lose precious images from iPhone or computer crashes. But even my friends and family who have backed up their images still give me a feeling of sadness when they aren’t printing their photos any longer. I was at a client’s home recently and commented on her son’s beautiful family that was displayed in a small frame on her mantle. She frowned and said sadly that a friend of hers had printed it from her son’s Facebook page a year ago because the friend knew he hadn’t sent her any recent photos of the grandkids. Not because he was upset with her, he simply has the mindset just like many today that once you post a photo on Facebook you’ve shared it with everyone.
Sure, my client is on Facebook from time to time, and the photos exist, theoretically, out there in cyberspace, but she tells me with a heavy sigh that sometimes she gets a little teary-eyed when she looks around her home and there are no recent stories to show; no shy first-day Girl Scout to beam at, no little fishermen holding their tiny catch aloft triumphantly, can’t share a loving chuckle at the indignant pout of the eldest boychild, insistent that his arm-cast couldn’t possibly interfere with his skateboarding prowess, nor can she present the impossible photo her son claims to have captured last month with everyone in their best clothes and on their best behavior (reportedly even including their cranky two-hundred year old Siamese cat, and their inexhaustible labradoodle pup).
So despite being so connected with the world, in reality I believe we have isolated ourselves into these picture perfect little online worlds that aren’t real when our reception’s bad, or a battery dies. Losing touch with our loved ones a moment at a time with every glance down at our phones during dinner. Every time we post on social media but fail to ever call our close friends and family to just talk or come over for a visit. The human experience is defined by our actual experiences with other humans. Maybe not today, but 20 years from now you will regret not being able to sit with family and friends passing old photo albums around, laughing and reliving those precious moments.
This is why I print actual portraits for my Houston photography clients of their family photos and not just hand them off some digital images; if I did that those images would not be enjoyed now and for future generations.
So turn away from your friend feed for 10 minutes and call a friend or family member, connect to the present moment and savor the memories.