As a somewhat-old-granddaddy, I have a few concerns for my getting-older-grandchildren. I want their futures to be abundant in all good ways.
While it’s certainly not as important as having clean air to breathe, I also want them to have plenty of photographs from their early years – not simply in an electronic cloud, but in images on photo paper, stuffed into album sleeves – plenty of pictures! In their future, I want them to enjoy their history in pictures.
That’s what I was thinking as I printed 4X6 photos of No. 1 grandson. I had been to a high school baseball game and photographed him pitching a no-hitter. The digital prints told a story that could be retold in decades yet to come.
“Look at his determined expression as he throws the ball,” they may say one day, years from now. “He still has that look even as an old man.”
Recently, our children and most of our grandchildren were visiting. After a meal, and after the grandchildren had finished texting friends in unseen locations, they took family photo albums from our shelves. The cousins studied scenes from their younger years. Soon, they were laughing and admiring how cute they’d been.
Pictures are powerful in stimulating memories.
One granddaughter went to New York City during Spring Break. She had an eventful trip and brought back photos to prove it. At this time, her pictures are in a cloud and available on the screens of her phone and other electronic devices. Another granddaughter spent much of her Spring Break playing in a Louisville volleyball tournament. Photos show her serving the ball. Those are also stored in a cloud and available for electronic viewing.
Then, there are the prints I’ve made of the grandson on the ball field. Although they’ll have to survive until eventual fading, the prints should be around for many years.
Our children have pictures in both printed and electronic versions. They use digital cameras and show presentations on their computers. They proudly hang enlargements on their walls, and they also have a few photo albums. The grandchildren, though, aren’t inclined to collect prints. They seem to think printed photos will be about as valuable in their future as my rolls of Super-8 silent film of their parents.
In our family, it’s certainly my generation that’s accumulated the most pictures. I’ve been recording our lives since I was big enough to look through a camera’s viewfinder and snap the shutter release.
I first made pictures with my mom’s box camera. It had a parallax problem and was not one to use for a close-up. Using it to make outdoor pictures, I would step back from my subject and hope I’d get the picture I wanted. We had to wait till all the exposures on the roll had been used before sending the film to be developed and printed.
When I got a Polaroid Swinger, I was as excited as a baseball player during a home run. The picture was available as quickly as the player could run the bases.
Several years before the digital age, I had a home darkroom where I developed and printed my work. I shot color slides, too. Some would say I over-photoed. One day, my picture boxes and albums are likely to become a burden to children who will wonder, “Did the old man ever do anything without taking along a camera?”
These days, I’ve embraced the digital process. Still, I can’t be content with photos that are only in the cloud. I want 'em also on paper. And when my grandson is my age, I want him to open the old photo album and see the print of himself standing on the pitcher’s mound one spring evening back in 2019.