For the last few weeks I have been searching for a project which has a tangible sense of accomplishment, an end product. Finally, I’ve found some projects around my home where I can achieve that. I don’t consider myself a hoarder but I do hold onto sentimental objects and especially pictures with an inexplicable fanaticism. I have always loved photographs and even in college took many pictures of friends and displayed them in my dorm rooms. I loved taking photography classes and relished the time I was able to spend in the dark room developing photographs. Back in the early eighties we took pictures with actual black and white film, you never were sure you had the shot until you went into the dark room and saw the magic happen on the photo paper. I remember being assigned to take two to four roll of thirty six pictures a week. Film was expensive, photo paper was expensive but the process was so exhilarating that I did everything in my power to make some extra cash to buy my supplies.
Over the years I have taken thousand upon thousands of photographs. Most of them I have saved, including the negatives. Pictures of my kids, friends, family and events are all documented in these photographs. Sure I have albums. I made sure I had an album documenting basic childhood milestones for each of my three children. Although, I must admit for my third child I may have substituted some of his baby pictures with those of his brother, my firstborn who has about a million pictures.
Even with these three photo albums there were giant crates of pictures lining the cabinets of my garage. Every summers when I was teaching I told myself, this year I will organized all of the pictures in those crates. And each summer I found something else to do. Well now that I am retired and home much more I had no more excuses.
For days I poured over each picture. Who were all of the people in the picture? What year was this? I remembered stories of the college parties, the pet bunnies, the vacations, and so many more sweet memories of my family and friends. The floor of my living room was strewn with piles of pictures. I’ve saved friends’ Christmas card photos, shots of tee ball practice, holidays and birthdays. Each photograph had a story to tell of my life. Many of the pictures were duplicates, because you often took three or four pictures in the hope of getting one good one. But my mission was to create photo albums chronologically. I loved every minute of the project. For many hours I would think of the Jim Croce song “Time in a Bottle” where you can “save every day until eternity passes away.” By honoring the photographs and assigning them a place in my albums I feel as though I am giving that photograph a voice and an opportunity for the story in the picture to be told again and again. Reluctantly, I threw away pictures that were blurry, duplicate or had heads missing. Unless those pictures were from my childhood, because the majority of the pictures my mom took included the tallest person being beheaded.
I was able to dwindle down the enormous amount of pictures to just two albums and one small box. How is it that all the stories can be so succinctly edited to two books? But they are given the place of honor in my albums. Hopefully to be seen by many eyes.
It is interesting to see when the pictures stop in time. They stop when we started using digital technology to take over the documentation process. I worry that so many pictures are on jump drives and discs and can so easily be discarded. But I know in my heart that the memories will last forever.