A few years ago, Missy Mwac wrote, “If you don’t think photos are important now, wait until they are all you have left.”
I’m going to repeat that for maximum impact. “If you don’t think photos are important now, wait until they are all you have left.”
I’ve been trying to reword this but still convey the sentiment, but Missy has put it so perfectly succinctly that there is no reason to change it. Now let’s think about it a little more. Why is it so, so important to take photographs, especially of your family?
Time marches on, and – to state the obvious – every day our children change and grow and even though we are certain we will remember each and every detail, we don’t. Gapped-toothed smiles, scabs, new haircuts, every additional inch in height: we see it at the time it but memories do unfortunately fade. But if we capture it in a photographic image, it takes us straight back to that moment in time every time we look at it. Whether it’s a month later when the new tooth has come through, or decades later when they’ve grown up and left home, the memory can make us smile and prove that that time existed. Even if the fashions become rather questionable! Think about it from your own point of view when you were a child. Yes, maybe it was a major embarrassment every time your parents pulled out the photo album to show people your baby photos, but surely it’s a rite of passage. Wouldn’t you be upset if all your family photos were gone? What if your children were never to have any of that when they grow up? Can you imagine that?
The other crucial point I’d like to emphasise is that you make sure you include yourself. Don’t always be the one taking the photograph, be in them too. You don’t need to wait for your hair to be perfect or to have lost those extra few pounds. You don’t need to add filters; create an honest record of the real you. Don’t worry if the house isn’t tidy, today’s clutter is future memories of the time it was taken and how it actually was. In fact, if you include the background it will help to date the photograph and prompt memories in the years to come. When your children are grown and look back on these images documenting their formative years, you are an intrinsic part of that time and need to make sure there is photographic evidence of that, proof you existed. Otherwise, if you’re not in it, you’ll be absent from it, and that is fake news. Selfie sticks might not be the coolest accessory but they’ll do the job nicely, or just stretch your arms out in front and snap away. Be present. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be.
So, okay, you’ve now taken lots of photos, and you’ve remembered to be in some of them too. Most probably the majority, if not all, are taken on your phone. That’s great, digital images are brilliant because there’s no more waiting a week to get your prints back and wondering if they’re in or out of focus. Digital images you can see straight away, you can delete it if it’s no good and retake ad infinitum. And then you stick them on Facebook, which may not be for the youth, it may be seen as an old person’s domain, but it is a great way to store memories. I’ve lost count of how many times ‘4 years ago today…’ has popped up on my feed, and just about each and every one has made me smile, turn to my husband/ friend/ neighbour and say, “Oh my gosh, do you remember that? Look how little they were!”
But what if you don’t want to stick them on social media? What if you lose your phone? What if the memory card corrupts? What if you haven’t got them backed up, on a cloud or off-line storage? PRINT THOSE IMAGES! Have an actual physical, tangible object. Something to stick in your wallet, or frame on a wall, something you can actually touch. Think about the grandparents etc, the older generation don’t always have access to digital images, but I bet they have a photo album tucked away somewhere, with records of holidays and family gatherings, possibly dated in neat handwriting on small strips of white sticky labels. Or a school photo of their grandkids, proudly displayed for visitors to see and more importantly for them to see, each and every day. So print those images, gift those images, a paper copy of a photograph is a lovely gift to give.
There is strong belief in the fact that a family portrait can boost a child’s self-esteem. In basic terms, they can literally see themselves as a valued and important part of the family unit, it helps them become secure and feel they have somewhere safe they belong. If that image is up on a wall, in the home, where they can see it every day without needing to log on to a computer etc it helps to embed that security, helps them know that they are more important than the device the image is stored on. Displaying the printed photograph tells them that the family is important to one another, and the memories they have together are treasured. It says we love you. It says we care about you.
“Children will not remember you for the images you stored on your computer, they remember you for the pictures on the wall and the time you spent together flipping through albums” says Julie Kelleher, M. Photog., Cr. a professional photographer in Oregon.
And I, for one, think that is priceless.
The Importance of Photography (and of actually printing the images)