In the past couple weeks I’ve been looking through metal boxes and plastic carousels and mail order packages of the slides I inherited from my father 10 years ago, and have the following thoughts.
In my father’s days — and up until the past 10 or 15 years of digital cameras and smartphones — people took photos very carefully, sparingly, and then got them all developed, because there was no alternative. These days you can take dozens of digital pics and edit them at your leisure, never having to print them out, and the wastage doesn’t cost you anything.
As for the photos themselves: landscape pictures are worthless 40 years later. There was a time, in those days, when vacationers would return home and invite friends over for ‘slide shows’ to show off all of the fantastic places they had been to, since their friends had not likely been there themselves.
And here is something of a revelation I’ve had. I’ve always rather disdained those tourists who insist on taking picture of *themselves* in front of every possible landmark. [Especially Asian tourists, including Yeong’s family, when they visited the US just over a year ago.] To some extent it strikes me as egotistic — as if the place only matters because *you* were there — and to some extent it’s bothered me because the compulsion to snap pics overrides the in-the-moment experience of actually being in the place that you are. This latter reason is why I stopped taking photos on trips, with only a few exceptions. I’d rather enjoy the moment, than be preoccupied with trying to record it.
But: I now realize the pics of tourists themselves, with landmarks in the background, will be more meaningful in future decades than bare pics of those landmarks would be. Because, as I scan through my father’s endless landscape pics of the Great Smokey Mountains, or Rocky Mountain National Park (destinations of family camping trips, when I was a teenager), it’s only those pics that show family members, or our car or our campsite, that I am tempted to scan and keep digitally. Landscape pics, anyone can find online these days.
Update Sunday 25 May: another crucial point I forget when posting the other day. The vast majority of my father’s pics *are not labeled*. This isn’t so bad for those landscape pics — but for family pics, especially of older relatives, it’s frustrating to have no idea who the people are in many of those photos from the ’50s or before, or any way now of finding out.
I compiled several albums of print photos in the ’70s and ’80s, some of friends and family, some of trips I took, before I transitioned to digital photos in the ’90s, photos stored in various directories on my harddrive. While I did carefully label the photos in those print albums, I admit I haven’t done so for the digital files. I suppose one assumes, or realizes, that most personal photos will be of no interest to anyone, after oneself is gone. This isn’t necessarily true, which is why I’m currently taking the effort to mine my father’s pics, and to some extent my own, as a legacy for my own various branches of family, just in case they are ever interested.