I don’t always take selfies, but when I do it takes 50 tries to get a semi decent one and the people around me think I’m a narcissistic idiot.
When I was younger, I remember my entire family giving my aunt grief for always wanting to take a picture. In retrospect, they should have been thanking her for being the Pictorial Family Historian.
In no way did she take the amount of pictures that are snapped, edited, posted, tweeted, texted, snap chatted, bought and framed by everyone these days. She didn’t even have a real camera. She aways had one of those cheap disposable cameras that would only take 24 pictures and then it was done. If it was a holiday event she would bring two of them. She was really good about getting one group picture at each activity and then during the entire moment or activity she would be grabbing quick snaps along the way.
She would buy doubles of those pictures, she would get a set and the rest of us would grab the few that we liked out of the bunch. She had (and still has) pictures all over her office, her house, her car, on her keychain, and her bathroom is an aquatic theme with our lifetime of lake and ocean vacations on display. While you poop, you can enjoy photos of us holding up fish throughout the years. She has a lifetime of pictures shoved into all the drawers, nooks, crannies of her house.
Do you know the one thing that most people take with them when they have to move into a nursing home? Pictures. Pictures to remind them. Pictures to refresh them. Pictures to comfort them.
Any pictures taken before I left to go to college are still at my moms house. My hoard of pictures began the moment I stepped out the door to go to college.
Admittedly my one album of college pictures for my entire 4 years of college is much less than the 5 albums that college kids now take of their first day of school. I have a lot less pictures, but the pictures that I do have are meaningful and they are physically in my possession as opposed to cyberspace. We have maybe 3 pictures where we are all just standing trying to look as fabulous as possible. Three. Three pictures in four years of college where we cared if we looked amazing. The rest are proof that our time in college was epic. Epic before epic was even a word. Sometimes we looked unintentionally fabulous and sometimes it was the picture where you see nose hair and crossed eyes. We were disheveled, we were real, we were having a lifetime of fun in those brief four years.
After college, I moved to California and during that part of my life, pictures became a little more important. We were all a little older, we had a little money, and the San Diego nightlife is a world away from college town West Texas.
We still had disposable cameras but we would be taking 20 min worth of pictures before we left the house to make sure we all had that one perfect photo. Perfect from a 20 year olds perspective, not perfect in the sense you could show them to your mom or your children. We took pictures in the car, in the club, and of course the pictures of at least one of us making a fool out of ourselves that night. During that point in my life I actually knew which way to stand, angle my head, smile just right and hold my body to get the best picture.
Even with all the deliberate posing and picture taking in California, I still only have about 10 really amazing pictures that are framable keepers. With disposable cameras you get what you get. No one gets a do-over. Good or bad they all tell a story about my life.
Once I was married, it’s no longer endless pictures of me going out with my girlfriends, it’s pictures of the two of us. Which is great and horrible at the same time. It’s great because you are taking a picture with someone you love. It’s horrible as my husband is willing to take ONE picture on the way out of the door. If I hear, “You need to enjoy the moment, not ruin the moment with pictures” one more darn time I might take a hostage. A big, burly man hostage that is also the father of my children.
That one picture is in front of a door, most of the time he is still griping about taking the picture as it is being snapped and if the picture is blurry or unflattering that is too bad because you had that one chance. No more posing, switching sides, adjusting clothing for a good picture. I have a 9 year time span where I zero amazing pictures. Zero.
Zero amazing pictures, but they still hold the memories. They still show the love. They still tell our story.
I spent the last week organizing my lifetime of photos. I gathered them all up from the nooks, crannies, boxes and closets I had shoved them into and spilled them all out over my living room floor. They are now all in albums, frames, one bookshelf and then a huge box with the remaining organized by periods in our life. It took me most of the week, but it was a worthwhile journey down memory lane.
I will admit, I still love my amazing pictures. The ones that are framable and the ones that you can never let your children look at. They make me happy. But the ones that hit me in my heart, punched me in the gut, took me back in time were not the amazing pictures. The pictures that took me on a journey through time and made my memories vivid again are the pictures that would never make it into a frame. Would have never even made it to the printer by todays standards. And that is a darn shame.
The pictures with the dirty house in the background, the action moments where everyone looks stupid but happy, the ones where you look fat but have love in your eyes, the pictures where the background was the most interesting part of the picture. It’s the background that tells most of the story and holds most of the memories.
These days you can read countless eloquent quotes about taking pictures when you don’t look wonderful. Blogs written about and for moms struggling with their new physical image and being present in their family pictures instead of the background. I fully support that but we need to go a few steps further.
Stop editing the horrible pictures. The pictures that are random, but have a critical moment captured or the realness of your situation. The pictures with no actual focus, but have a ton of people not looking at the camera. Stop editing and deleting those pictures and print them out. Print them out because 20 years from now you won’t give a hoot about those pictures you look fabulous in. You will use those once thought lame background pictures and it will bring that moment back with crystal clear clarity. Clarity you won’t get with a selfie. You won’t be able to tell when or where you are in those selfies because you are zoomed in on your face. Your perfect face that doesn’t tell a story. You will care about those pictures that actually tell the story. Print those selfies but also print your story. The amazing story of your life. It’s the details that matter. The messy, unframable details.
Let’s not be the nursing home generation that only has a box full of selfies.