It’s the first month of a brand New Year, and we all know what that means. To do lists, vows and resolutions. Hope. Making changes. Promises to ourselves and our loved ones. And, if you’re like me, organizing shelves, offices and those boxes that have been sitting in the closet so long I really wished I’d labelled them something other than “personal stuff”.
The top of my list though? Filling the family albums. Far from being outdated or not relevant in the digital age, these family prints are beloved and treasured.
It’s time to pull out the big envelopes full of photographs I’ve collected over the year - the moments that make up our lives, great and small. Yesterday I’m sorting them chronologically and I’m distracted by two little heads bobbing up and down. By the time I get to family vacation photos from the beach last summer little fingerprints are appearing out of nowhere on the photos amid exclamations of “Is that me!? I want to see!”
If I ever want to gather the family around for an hour or two, nothing works like pulling out the family albums. Children absolutely love seeing pictures of themselves, of the family together, and hearing the stories, reliving the days, remembering the seagull that divebombed us on the beach and the time they found that perfectly intact seashell. My girl declares she can still smell the sea, the photos bring it all back.
It’s so important to have those memories preserved that our family vacations are almost entirely documented on film. That way they are just printed right away and go into the box for sorting. With hard copies on paper, there is no chance of accidental deletion. We don’t have to gather around the computer or pass around the smart phone to see them. Instead, we can sit on the floor, in a happy little circle, and reminisce together and start getting excited about what this year will bring.
The family albums not only give us the gift of memories, but the gift of time. There is no quick scanning, no swiping a finger across a screen to see the next. We linger, turning the pages slowly. We slow down, appreciate the time we spent as a family over the year. The details come to life on paper and I shoot most of my personal work on black and white film so the children gain a new perspective, of light and shadows and the gentle grain of film.
I hang my favourites, blow them up bigger, mount and frame them so I can see them every day. These are the faces I love. On tough days, when life feels hard and I wonder what the struggle is for, there they are in front of me, reminding me.
The photographs document what will become my children’s memories of their childhood, vague and ideally distorted in their minds like impressionist paintings. The photos will clarify those memories, make them sharper, fill in the gaps their young minds didn’t catch. Sometimes I’ll look at pictures from my own childhood, and I’m surprised at either how accurately I remembered a certain detail, or amazed to learn things I never realized as a child. One day, my children will be amazed as well, with tangible evidence in their hands of times they only barely remember, bringing their past to life.
For the every day, I use my smartphone to snap those spur of the moment shots like everyone else. They go on Facebook to share with family and friends, and get uploaded and saved to a computer file and printed randomly throughout the year for their own mini album. Not because they are technically perfect or frame worthy but because they are *us* and as kooky, silly and blurry as life can be, they deserve to be visited often and I don’t ever want them accidentally deleted or gathering dust in a closet.
I make a lot of vows come New Year. Eating healthier, exercising more, being more organized. Not many last long, I’m embarrassed to say. But preserving our memories — that’s the one resolution I always keep. Here’s to 2014. May you have a year full of love and a box full of memories to put in your own family album next year.