There, But Not There

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Every time something amusing happens in our house, whether it be a wacky, shampoo-held hairdo at bath-time or the dog pulls a funny face, my children implore me to grab a camera and preserve the moment for…well that’s my point. For what?
This reflexive urge to photograph every passing event and nebulous circumstance means that, as a household, we now own 9 cameras in various incarnations. We photograph anything from the children’s latest Lego creations (preserved perversely I believe, much against their natural transitory state) to, bizarrely, pencil and felt-pen drawings they’re currently proud of. It’s as if something must be photographed and uploaded to gain validation.
I’m no Luddite, yearning for the days of sepia and Daguerrotypes but I look through photographs from my childhood in the 1970’s and ‘80’s and can see that each picture represents an event that held value in its preservation.
Of course, there are myriad advantages to the accessibility of photography today. I’m grateful that I can email digital photos to family and friends.
I don’t have to go to a chemist or wait for prints to arrive in the post and I don’t have to worry that the genuine magic moments will be missed.
Someone will always have a camera.

One photograph I still look at with wonder shows the end of a Christmas party in 1978. Numerous members of my extended family all strained inwards, ensuring at least their faces were included in a huge group shot that encompassed everyone from my great-grandparents (sitting at the back, frothy ale in hand) to my 2 year old sister (teary-eyed and tired, sitting on the floor at the front).

So much is happening in this photograph, so many lives are shown, some since ended; a record of relationships and interconnections are represented, and it leaves me emotionally worn out to give them too much thought. I love that photograph and everyone in it.

It wasn’t taken innumerable times on different peoples’ mobile phones and digital cameras. It could never have been re-sat, re-touched, shared on a social networking website or ‘tagged’ with everyone’s names. There is only one copy. My mother had it in a shoebox until the year 2000 when she died.

Now I have it, in a shoebox.

Tip for the day: Reduce, reuse, recycle: Disney style

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There is exactly one

There is exactly one photograph of me before I was about twelve years old. It is a picture of me at about 18 months being dunked in the cold water near a waterfall in the north of england in winter and (not entirely surprisingly) crying. I may also have been crying a bit about the outfit I was wearing, this being the 70s.

I'm the youngest of four children. There are hundreds of photos of my siblings - you can almost make a flipbook animation of them growing up. By the time I came along, it's safe to say that the novelty had worn off.

It is interesting that this one photograph of me has branded me as a troublesome baby. Since I'm crying in the only picture of me, everyone agrees that I must have cried all the time. People probably *tried* to get a photograph of me not crying, but they'd have had to be a damn fast shot before I was off again.

Photographing things in order to remember them is a curious pursuit, especially as it tends to change people's memories rather than reinforce them.

Or maybe that's the point. As a trigger to sentimentalism - even over-sentimentalism - photographs are great.