Saturday, March 22, 2014

The power of photographs

Although I have a Facebook account, I don't spend a lot of time there... and while I comment on other people's posts,  I post almost nothing of my own.   I  have a small number of 'friends'... mostly family, with a few close friends thrown in.  I have the account largely because it's the easiest way for me to access photos posted by family.  I haven't even bothered with a personal profile picture of my own. I find the anonymous blue silhouette somewhat amusing, and it never has a bad hair day! But I've come to realize that that this is an inconsiderate attitude. My most recent 'friends' are family members  I've recently re-connected with, including several cousins who I have not  seen in decades.. yes, truly decades. Through their postings and their profile picture changes, I'm 'meeting' their children and their spouses - who I've never seen, and I'm reliving memories when they post old photos. 

And I've realized that I have forgotten the power of photographs.  

Inexcusable, really.  

You see, while the media reports on teens who take and post photos that are less than flattering and warns that this will affect their job prospects in the future, and Ellen DeGeneres and President Obama contribute to the culture of the selfie... my family has always understood the power of photographs.

Long before Facebook, and long before selfies, as my siblings and I finished high school and moved away, my family adopted the policy of "It doesn't exist until you send a photo." And this was in the days when you used film and had it developed, and actually had to mail it! So...someone bought a car and called to announce the news....  "That's nice, and congratulations.... But it doesn't exist until you send a photo."   A new apartment, a house, a cat...  even a child, all required corroboration by a photograph.  Yes, it  became a family joke, but it was a constant reminder of the importance of pictures.  Those pictures helped us remain connected, notwithstanding the many miles that separated us.  My sister twisted this notion a little bit, and took it to an extreme when she had her kids.   She lived in another country and face-to-face visits were infrequent.  But from the time her kids were quite young, she kept current pictures of the rest of the family close at hand... And when she would speak of a family member, or if a family member was on the phone, she would display the appropriate picture to her children. The outcome of this was that when we did see her kids, no matter how long it had been since the last visit, no matter how young they were ...  they recognized us!  And how nice it must have been for them when put in a strange situation surrounded by lots of people, to see faces that were familiar.

I think it's fair to say that young people are generally ignoring the warnings of the media that you need to think twice, or even thrice, about the record you're creating when you take a picture and put it online. Perhaps the media is taking the wrong approach; perhaps they should be emphasizing how precious and longlasting the memories can be that are being created.  

I'm certainly not going to change the behavior and attitudes of those who post pictures today that they will regret tomorrow... but I can certainly change my behavior and attitude and remember the power of photographs.  I can't promise there won't be any bad hair days...  but I can certainly promise to share my photographs.   No, not with the world... there's still something to be said for privacy.  But I will be sharing my photos -- and the old memories they carry, as well as the new memories they create, with family and friends.

And now, for some tea, as I consider  which photos to share first.


  1. So glad you and I are part of the same family

  2. I think I'll stick with not existing.