Serene Saturdays: The Power of Photographs

A few years back, I started a habit of “swiping” old family photographs from the upstairs loft in my paternal grandparents’ house. My grandmother was an old pro at organizing decades of photos—even having separate envelopes for pictures of my sister, brother, and me. I’d put the photos in albums according to year and occasion, and stick the miscellaneous in small, hearty Victoria’s Secret bags (whoever engineered those bags is a genius).

When Grandma died in October 2011 I nearly emptied her dresser drawers full of memories captured on film. I still don’t know what to do with them all.

There is something about a still-shot photograph, a physical photograph that symbolizes the life cycle at its best. A photograph reveals its age. Whether it’s a black and white or a Polaroid, they can capture the essence of an era.

Digital photography is phenomenal, don’t get me wrong. I love that I can view a picture a mere instant after its taken, and decide on the spot whether or not I want to “keep” it. I love that there are Photoshop features that allow me to remove the red from my eyes or the curves from my waistline. And photo bombers beware: if need be, I will remove you.

But with all the technological advances, the images can appear timeless—and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. I sometimes look at pictures from 2003 that don’t necessarily look different from my 2013 pictures. I look older (and wiser) of course, but the picture itself doesn’t necessarily reveal anything to me, whereas if I look at a picture from 1991, I can see the period unravel in front of me. I’m right back in third grade. I can see an episode of Full House on my TV screen. I can hear Phil Collins on the radio. I can smell the chocolate chip cookies I’m baking with Grandma. It’s all right there in photo.

There’s something about capturing a fleeting moment on film and not being able to do anything about it once the camera clicks. No previewing or nitpicks, or surgical procedures. Just whatever image materializes, forever.

Here are five of my favorite photographs from my collection that help remind me who I am and where I came from—even long before I was born:

My paternal grandparents c. 1948. I love this picture of them. So playful.

My paternal grandparents c. 1948. I love this picture of them. So playful.

My maternal grandparents in 1947, the same year they got married.

My maternal grandparents in 1947, the same year they got married.

My paternal grandfather and my uncle c. 1954. My "Papia" had been a drummer in swing band until his death in 2008

My maternal grandfather and my uncle c. 1954. My “Papia” had been a drummer in swing band until his death in 2008

My mom and dad c. 1978. See how these photographs reveal their eras?

My mom and dad c. 1978. See how these photographs reveal their eras?

That's me at age 8? Likely 1989 or 1990. See, I was always an "Intrinsic Writer"

That’s me at age 8? Likely 1989 or 1990. See, I was always an “Intrinsic Writer”

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6 Comments

Filed under Serene Saturdays

6 responses to “Serene Saturdays: The Power of Photographs

  1. You’re right–digital photos don’t have the same nuance that a physical photograph does. And yet, I rarely print out my photos anymore. Too lazy.

    Love the pic of you at the desk. So cute!

    • Thanks Carrie. I hardly print out photos anymore either. I would mean I’d have to go to CVS and blah, blah, blah. I printed out a bunch of my wedding photos for Christmas gifts…and it was hassle!

      Glad you like the picture of me in the desk! I think I carved my name on there a few times 🙂

  2. It might be something about the paper: the way it yellows a little and picks up all the fingerprints (real or imagined) that have crossed it. But, you’re right, physical photographs seem to have an edge over the digital variety–in spite of the editing advantages.
    Which makes me wonder, will physical books continue to be more appealing than ebooks? They still are to me! 🙂

    • Oh yeah…the fingerprints…nice detail! I agree, the physical photos have the edge…I believe they always will. I’m glad I’m old enough to have lived during some of the years where these types of pictures were relevant!

      That’s true about the parallel to ebooks vs. actual books. I don’t know…lately I find myself preferring reading books off my iPad. I’m not sure why. Once in a while I switch back to paperbacks, etc. When I do I hardly notice the difference..not sure if that’s good or bad!

  3. I have a great 70’s photo I could post. Can you say ‘polyester’? LOL

    Seriously. These are neat. 🙂

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