From the time we began dating, Nancy has been the one who used a camera to capture memories of important moments in our life.
I suppose there’s one in every family, huh? Well, maybe not these days, when every man, woman and child carries a combination camera-phone-internet connection in their hand or in the back pocket of their jeans.
These days when there’s a family photo op, five or six people will snap away with their smartphones. Some of them probably will take moving pictures, too. When the moment has passed, several people instantly share the moment with each other. One or two of them might create an online album (don’t ask me how that’s done) and invite others to view the moment and to add their own photos and videos. First thing you know that virtual album has 30 or 40 images. The moment is documented for eternity. I guess it’s eternity, anyway. I haven’t a clue where that album is actually located.
But there was a time when each family had one unofficial photographer for its moments. You know who I mean. It’s the person running around with a camera, shooing people into little groups, asking everyone to smile or “say cheese,’’ hovering on the sidelines to snap images of the others.
Nancy was that person in our family. That’s probably why so many of our early albums have photographs of every family member and every friend, except Nancy. As our family grew, more and more photos were taken, and more and more people had their moments captured. But Nancy was generally the one capturing the moments, so she was in few pictures.
One positive about the proliferation of phones with camera capability has been that Nancy gets in more of the photos. If everyone now is an unofficial family photographer, then she’s sometimes among those being photographed instead of always doing the photographing. And that’s great. Someday, far, far in the future, when she is gone, there will be images of her with others in the family. That’s a good thing. She’s been the rock of this family, the solid center the rest of us depend on to make it through our days. Leaving her out of the family record of our moments would be unacceptable.
I’ve been thinking about Nancy’s photo records these days because in our last move we finally had to dump a whole bunch of photo albums. I’m talking shelves and shelves of albums, not online ones. I’m talking about the kind of albums that have hard covers and lots of pages to hold actual prints of photographs. The pages have plastic or vinyl sheets over them to preserve the pictures. They are so nicely done, so permanent, you might say, that we hung on to them for years, even after everyone began making their photos with their phones.
Nancy started with a small camera, a Brownie, probably, and black-and-white film. We have a few high school era prints from that time, and some early college memories. She graduated to color film pretty quickly, and most of the shots of our kids are in color. Still, the pictures are limited in number. With a 12-shot roll of film, a person didn’t waste a single image.
Digital made it easy to fire away, capturing many images of a single moment. You’d send the files somewhere and hard-copy prints would come back. Discarding any of those images was hard, though, so the number of prints in the albums grew, and consequently, so did the number of albums on the shelves. When we still lived in our big house, I made two or three sets of shelves to hold nothing but photo albums.
We had to downsize in our recent move. We kept albums made before digital records began, and we tossed the rest. It was the smart thing to do, but every time I dropped a “real’’ album in the dumpster, I felt as if I was throwing away a piece of our life.
Thinking “Hey, those pictures are still out there in cyberspace’’ didn’t ease the pain. Not having to find space for those albums seemed to help, though.