I miss the cadence of photographs. I mean honest to goodness, photographs taken with film that’s dropped off to a store, developed and put into albums. I miss the value of them - the value of time. Of expectation.
Steve had a simple request for me the other night. Could I find a picture that included him, my dad, brother Keith and brother-in-law Rod? The Fire Co.’s celebrates its 75th anniversary in May and they’re looking for “family” shots of members for the program booklet.
“Sure,” I said. I could see the picture in my mind – knew it was somewhere in the house. And so I started to look. Two and a half hours later I’d gone through over 15 albums and speed glanced at hundreds of loose photos. The picture in my “mind’s eye” was nowhere to be found, but I did chance across one taken at least 25 years ago and a few others I pulled out for good measure.
Neither the albums nor the loose photos were in chronological order so I jumped through the past 50 years or so, setting down the box of loose photos with my first grade picture to open an album and find Steven and me when we started dating, 13 years later. There were trips that spanned the last thirty years by planes, trains and automobiles. I was heavy, then thin (more than I remember) and every size in between. My hair was long, then short, poker straight and permed like wild a couple of times (again, more than I remember). Abram passed from soccer games to school concerts and Steven flowed through fire company events and his paramedic career.
There used to be a dance you had with photos. It started before an event or holiday, when you made sure you had enough film, batteries and flash cubes. It wasn’t a cheap venture, so quite often the one receiving the “big” Christmas gift that year was tipped off to that fact when the camera was taken out to capture the “special moment”. There were group shots where one person inevitably blinked or that family member who always managed to be talking to the person next to them during the shot. Pictures were taken with a specific plan in mind of it being a future gift and always, always, there were promises to get “doubles” and share.
When the roll was finished (and sometimes this would take months and you would have Christmas, a birthday or two and the following fourth of July on the same roll), you dropped it off to be developed at the little yellow capped Fotomat booth, an island unto itself in the middle of the plaza parking lot. Like magic, in a few days you’d go back and from inside that amazingly little space, they’d hand over your pictures. I spent many days dreaming of growing up and working in that little booth, and really believed they somehow developed them in there!
Growing up our family pictures weren’t put into albums; you’d stumble across a box of them, or open a desk drawer to find a few hundred of them. When I got married, I put mine in albums and did so until the middle 90’s. Soon I didn’t drop the film off to a store, but sent the roll by mail to be developed and the pictures (with doubles to be sent to my mom in Florida) were delivered to my doorstep. I didn’t even feel the falter in my dance step.
In the early 2000’s I got my first digital camera and pictures got downloaded on my computer and placed in albums in the “My Pictures” tab. Rarely were any printed – they just got sent as an email attachment. Then came Facebook and the ability to share with family and friends online. The dance came to an end.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my digital camera. I appreciate the ability to see a picture immediately and do a re-take until everyone is smiling and looks good. I have thousands of pictures of remodeling the house, vacations and family events. I love posting a quick snapshot on Facebook of Steven and I as we enjoy a glass of wine while cooking steaks.
But still, I miss the dance. I’ve never lost myself to strolling through my online albums for hours at a time like I did the other night with my albums and loose photos. Those photos whirled me around ‘til I was near breathless.