When I was growing up in the "olden days" we took images with cameras loaded with film, took them for processing, waited a few days, and then excitedly went and picked up our prints. We might have mounted them in an album if we were ambitious, or we simply collected them in a shoe box for later rummaging. We often made copies to share with friends and family, and they did the same. My shoe boxes and albums reside in the closet eagerly awaiting a "throw back Thursday" scan or more importantly mounted in frames around the house on display for visitors to enjoy and comment on. I can tell you that each journey into that closet nets a big smile and a fond "oh look at this...." fill in the blank from whatever time and place was forever imprinted not only on the paper but also and more importantly on my memory. Most of what I remember from earlier days has faded, but those moments on paper live forever.
Fast forward to 2014. 99% of images today are taken on a digital device, and I would venture to say that roughly 90% of those are taken on a cell phone. I'll assume that there are still some photographers shooting with film out there somewhere in the world, in fact there seems to be a resurgence of Polaroid and other film techniques now making their way back into today's shooting, but I digress. I have been conducting an unscientific poll of friends and acquaintances inquiring about prints. I have not found anyone (young or old) that has had prints made in the last year or even two (outside of the not so great, un-retouched, stand there and smile in the unflattering light, with an unflattering pose, looks like 1972, yearly school images that have been offered for sale in my household- and politely refused).
This got me thinking, what happens one day when we're no longer here? We are raising a whole generation of kids that we have NEVER had a print made for! Food for thought, my grandmother, a beautiful lady of Italian decent, passed on over a decade ago. I have a handful of images of her in her younger days that I received after my grandfather too passed on. I look back at those images on occasion and wonder, what was her life like back then. Look how pretty she was at her prime, can I see myself in her face? However, everything I had in my possession was simply a "snapshot". (At least I have those!) So I asked my mom if she had any formal portraits of my grandma and herself in her possession.
After an intensive search of the archives, my mom was able to net the following images of both of them. Both are very old and in rough shape, but then again, doesn't that lend itself to what makes them special?
My grandma Mary. I don't know her age here, but she looks to be in her late teens or early twenties perhaps:
And a little older:
And then my mom in her teens:
These are a few of the only portraits that exist, but they do EXIST! :) I am happy to say that because I am a portrait photographer, that I have had the pleasure of capturing my mothers beauty recently. Here is a shot from last December.
I am even happier to have made a beautiful memory which will stay with me always AND will rest in a beautiful frame on our families mantles for all to see.
So back to the digital age and 90+% of our images existing only on our phone or computer. What happens when your phone breaks or your computer crashes? As wonderful as it is to have captured the moment by moment happenings of our everyday life (and I'm happy to do it too!), I would ask yourself, when you are gone will someone value the image they may or may not be able to access on your phone or computer? Or will an actual print be the thing that brings a smile to their face. Have you sat for a portrait lately? If not I encourage you not to wait, everyone should have at least one beautiful image in print of themselves for their family to enjoy, and later remember them fondly with after time has marched on.