What About This?

By Wayne William Cipriano

There is a lot to be said for technological advancements. Many actually make our lives better, Some, of course, not so much. And some (or most? all?) carry unintended consequences.

For instance, besides making telephone calls just about everyone who has a cell phone uses it to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. It’s good to memorialize life’s moments and do so very inexpensively.

But, like so many other “advances,” there is a negative side to those cell phone camera pictures. While I’m sure some people have the capacity to turn the pictures on a cell phone screen into “hard copies” of the shots, I have not noticed a lot of people displaying those hard copies. I guess they keep them in their phones and take a look at them periodically, if at all.

In the old days, we took photographs with a camera and photographic film. Then we got them developed. It cost some money so we were a bit judicious as to how many photos we took and maybe a little picky as to the subjects. And, having paid for each one, we were more apt to keep them in a box, a drawer, and album, rather than toss them after we checked them out. And so, quite on their own, those photographs became histories.

I’m not going to talk about the artistry many SLR freaks can pry out of their cameras. These days, cell phone cameras have enough bell and whistle effects to put a little F-stop manipulation to shame. But, perhaps, the ease of taking so many pictures and the inexpensive nature of those shots has had the unintended consequence of losing our photographic history.

I can easily remember, as can you no doubt, pawing through cigar boxes, bulging envelopes, fat albums of old photographs. Even the “candid” shots usually seemed posed to the point of stiffness. Who were these people? Where was that taken? What kind of car was that? Did we really live there?

And so would come reminisces of times long passed when, once we see again the story of the time Uncle Sal brought home that old shaggy dog and it chased Gramma’s chickens all over the front yard. Or Aunt Phil got a trip to the beauty parlor for a marcel wave as a present on her thirteenth birthday. Or the entire softball team made a human pyramid and just after the picture was taken they  went on to lose the city championship to those bums from Glastonbury. And there’s the one of Uncle Bill when he was seventeen posing in front of his “new” car, a Maxwell, can you believe it, that my Mother bought him for fifteen dollars. And it ran! And he took all the kids to dances all over the country- Middlebury, Oakville, Torrington, just about everywhere.

Why, if you had a car, you could get to a dance or two just about every weekend. And here are the pictures to prove it. The only two people I ever heard of owning a Maxwell were my Uncle Bill and Jack Benny! I wonder what ever happened to that bomb of a car.?

Without those old photos, how much of this would be remembered? How much would just pass away, lost in time, known so well to some, completely unknown to others in the same family?

Folks take many many pictures with cell phones and maybe even look back over them from time to time. But, when you change phones, lose phones, break phones what happens to all those memories that weren’t hard copies? Gone, all gone.

I suppose one might someday find an old phone, or a memory card (I think they are called) or a memory stick (?) and somehow retrieve the pictures that were stored. But, probably not.

You open those cigar boxes, those musty envelopes, those big fat albums and you see our history and then those photos go back to sleep until the next time they are dragged out and someone asks, “Who is that good-looking chick?” and someone else says, “That’s Grandma when she was sixteen.

Lately  we’ve seen how instant still photography and motion picture capability using the ubiquitous cell phone can have an important effect on how we understand life around us that we just didn’t see for ourselves and might not believe were it not for those recordings. And that has been, for the most part, good.

But I’m sorry for those future folks that won’t be able to dig through old photographs and ask, and giggle, and cry, and wonder. The communication of our family history down through the generation has a lot to do with those old photographs that we stumble across.

What will take their place?