Twenty-one years ago, my grandfather died at the age of 92 in the same house he grew up in. Next to the old pendulum clock in his living room, above his favorite chair, hung his wedding photo, a sepia colored image in a thick dark brown frame. Besides that wedding photo, there was only one other photo showing him as a young men, a photo of a men in a uniform, drafted in WW2, taken about 12 years later.
Growing up, I could hardly imagine that grandparents were once young themselves. Even later as an adult, when talking to my grandfather, there wasn’t much to travel back in time to. The experiences from the war must have been so traumatizing that even after so many years, the undecorated private never wanted to talk about it. The absence of photos made it hard to remember and share his life’s story while he was alive, and almost impossible now.
My parents have photos in abundance. I remember growing up with a camera accepting Kodachrome cartridges that were developed straight into slides; slides that were then projected on to a white wall. Since those cartridges were expensive, as was the development process, we were only carefully and very deliberately taking photos, many of which were awkwardly staged. Slides are out of fashion for a long time now and my parents, just as so many others, are trying to convert some or all of their slides to digital.
My son grew up in the all digital age and he never knew a camera that wouldn’t store images on digital media. Instead of developing images to be eventually printed on paper, or put into slides, photos now have their destination on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. But just like Flickr and many other photo-sharing websites have fallen out of favor, Instagram might not be around by the time when he will be a grandfather, sharing his life’s story with his grandchildren.
The best camera is the one you have with you
I think it’s very true, the best camera is the one you have with you. However, this doesn’t mean that the camera you have with you, is a great camera. Don’t settle for the poor photo quality of your smartphone for convenience. I know that many want you to believe that the image quality of high end smartphones is great. Occasionally, it can be quite good, but it’s never great. There are no weddings, being exclusively shot on an iPhone and just like the poor quality of someone calling into CNN on a Skype connection, photos taken on smartphones lack the potential of a photo taken on a DSLR or high end mirrorless camera.
The photographs you take, record your life. What might seem like a mundane moment to you now, may be an important junction. Too bad if you took THAT photo on your phone, applied a stupid filter to it, and posted it in a low resolution on Instagram, but even worse, if you didn’t take the shot at all.
You write your own history
About twelve years ago I started creating yearbooks. I collect my best photos of the year; starting with the Pictures folder on my Mac, I then look through all my social media sites, and not forgetting photos that may reside only on my phone. Usually, I edit all photos in Adobe Lightroom and sort them by date. I often write a paragraph or two around a couple of photos.
This can be time consuming, not only depending on the number of photos, but also on how good of a writer I like to pretend to be; I can only hope that it will be worth it someday. After that I layout photos and text in an easy to use book-maker design tool and have the book printed.
Going back in time only 10 years, I already notice that events that are covered in a yearbook are more alive, more vivid. At the same time, events that took place, but have no coverage started fading. Creating those books years ago was determined mostly by the availability of great photos, or photos at all. However, today I realize that I started to write my own history with those books. Events without photos will eventually fade away while others, maybe less import, but with great photos, will remain.
Stop the moment, observe, feel, capture.
Photographs are the slideshow of your life
— make it a great one.
Don’t repeat the mistakes of previous generations. Instead, go out and take lots of photos. Try to take the best camera you have a little more and compromise for convenience a little less. Most importably, don’t buy into any proprietary display standards. Instagram and Flickr look a lot like Kodachrome slides to me.