Aspen Princess: Best memories sometimes are left without photo help
I sat on the banks of the Yampa River, arms stretched out awkwardly as I shot photos of my husband and son playing in the rocks by the water’s edge. The sun glistened off the water in that special way that only happens in spring and fall, like liquid diamonds slowly snaking their way along the valley floor.
On the way home, I browsed through the pictures, cropping and applying all kinds of filters. That night, I uploaded my favorites to my various social media accounts, worrying that despite what I thought were intriguing and decently composed photos, it was still going to be somewhat redundant.
After all, when you look at my Instagram account page, almost every image is of my little boy, as if a single day can’t pass without me documenting his existence. It makes me wonder if the frequency with which we now document every day of our lives somehow demeans the value of these images. Just in terms of sheer volume, they are no longer special.
Growing up, I always loved photographs. I’d spend hours making collages for my friends, cutting and pasting a selection of images onto whiteboard with words cut out of magazines that said things like “hot stuff” and “summer love” or “best friends.” That was back when you’d have to take photos with an actual camera and wait to get the film processed. I remember when hour-photo places started popping up, and that felt like a game changer.
Back then, cameras only came out for special occasions: vacations, birthday parties, holidays and milestones like weddings and first days of school. Big trips to faraway places often commanded an event like a slideshow, projected onto a white sheet tacked to the living room wall.
Now, travel to faraway places is documented simultaneously, practically in real time. I have a friend who is traveling through Asia alone with her young son and is uploading images at least once a day. Her photos are striking, beautiful and even moving. But as the days of her trip continue, I find myself less compelled by her posts. At a certain point, it starts to feel like more of the same. I also wonder about the time spent taking photos, editing them and uploading them. I would think an amazing trip would mean not having the time or the desire to do any of that.
It reminds me of those ski movie premieres I used to go to back in the ’90s. As someone who worked in the ski and snowboard industry back then, were all so invested in the film production companies and the athletes. Most of us had been on the trips and photo shoots that comprised some of the film’s segments. We we’re like a traveling circus, moving around the world from one place to the next in large groups, like a rock band on a world tour. This was before social media, so in many ways, the films were a culmination of a year’s worth of experiences.
The premieres reminded me of a wedding because the preparations were so elaborate and the guests came from all over and the celebration was a weekend long.
I would feel goosebumps rise when the lights dimmed and the film finally began to cheers and screams of the audience. The skiing was always death-defying and dramatic, at least at first. But after the first 5, 10 minutes, it all started to look the same. Halfway through, I started to think about how much I had to pee and by the end, I was squirming in my seat, restless and ready for the after party. Because these movies had no real context or plot, it was shot after shot after shot of skiing action, and that monotony took away from the action.
In many ways, social media has done the same thing.
When Ryan and I first started dating, I’d make a photo album at the end of each year and give it to him as a gift for Christmas. Of course I started to lag on this as the years went by. But when Levi was born, my desire to preserve these memories was reignited. I was especially concerned about making sure my favorite images were printed on paper, actual photographs that could be kept safe, unlike the digital images that seemed to die with each laptop computer that ended up in the Apple graveyard.
I uploaded all my images to Shutterfly and had the photos shipped to my house. They came in a big, orange box, with several envelopes inside. All told, I’d had over 300 images printed.
Levi is 2, and I still haven’t gotten around to making that album of his first year yet, in part because of the sheer volume of photos. It feels too overwhelming. As someone who has worked in magazines, I should be able to edit them down but I can’t. Because of the ability to edit and crop and even choose a frame out of the dozens that are captured in “live” mode, I believe every photo is worth keeping.
But is every photo worth remembering? Is every day of this kid’s life so significant that it has to be documented day after day?
And how has it impacted his memory of his own life? In many ways, I believe he will remember his early life in ways previous generations were unable to. They say kids don’t remember much before the age of 4, but this generation will. They might not be able to recall the actual memory, but they will know the video or the photograph.
So how do we differentiate special memories from every day ones? Sometimes I think the memories we’ll actually keep are the ones we don’t document, those rare instances when we stopped long enough to put the camera down and just be in the moment.
The Princess is giddy with the fragrance of spring. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.