My son, Brian, just turned 28 on July 14. He is a part of the last generation of people (in America, I suspect) who had their childhood photos of them taken with film. I have boxes stacked in my closet of envelopes containing hundreds if not thousands of pictures of him, my daughter, my family, my wife, her family, our friends…our childhood playmates…the list goes on.
The date on the back of this photo is July, 2001. Brian is standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. I have another picture of him standing in lower Manhattan with the WTC behind him. Two months later…
I have beside me on the table where I now write, a heavy book with the title: “A New History of Photography“. On page 24 is a negative of an image of a ‘latticed window’, taken by William Henry Fox Talbot. It is a negative. The date of this image is 1835. It is probably one of the earliest “photos” ever taken. It pre-dates Daguerre by a few years.
No longer will I carefully tuck the little tag with the serial number of my film in my pocket while the person at my local pharmacy tells me “it will be ready next week”.
No longer will I carry the packet home and review the images I just paid $7.50 to have developed. No longer will I look at the strip of negatives and take one back to the drug store and say: “I want duplicates of #17a and #17b”.
I will not be licking little “corner” adhesive mounts for a scrapbook. It’s all done in the computer now. I can use Photoshop 9 to alter reality. (Even with this technology, I’ll never make myself look like George Clooney.)
I have to say that I will miss gently touching an old photograph. Discovering a box of images I’ve never seen before. Open my wallet, as a teenager, and gazing at the small school photo of my girlfriend, standing in an antique store and looking into the eyes of a stranger, a natty gentleman in a bowler, a pretty woman in lace, an old man with a white beard and straw hat, an aunt with a basket of unshucked peas in her lap.
My wife has a photo of her grandmother in her coffin. It was taken in Aleppo, Syria circa 1920. This was a common practice in pioneer America and Europe. It was a way of keeping a final image after a life lived. Instead of a slowly fading memory, there, in an old dusty book, was the final picture of a loved one before they were buried.
Now, our memories…well, we don’t need memories anymore. Everything, an entire life can be stored on a memory stick…available with a touch to a keypad.
I’ve seen Internet projects where a woman photos her face from exactly the same angle every day for a year or more. It makes for fascinating viewing, but in life, I don’t want to see the gradual changes that are meant not to be seen in 30 seconds, but in 365 days.
When you turn to look at someone you love, or have loved, or will love…what you see should change in real-time. Not in slo-mo or fast forward.
That’s not how life works.
Your Kodak moment should be a moment, frozen, as you are, for all the future generations yet to be born.
Recently, in a restaurant on Broadway in New York City, I went down a few stairs to the men’s room. In the hallway, at the bottom of the steps was an “old-time” photo booth. These were often found at county fairs, Coney Island and Amusement Parks…everywhere. They used to cost about 25 cents. Here was one that gave you a set of four poses for $3.00. I didn’t mind the money. But these were in black and white…like the old days. Nothing digital about these!
I couldn’t resist.
I just need to use Photoshop 9 to retouch my hair…and I’m a teenager again. My wife doesn’t need any alterations to look pretty.
Yes, we’re teenagers again, kinda.