Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Strange Old Pictures of My Family

Last month, my grandfather passed away. On the day he died, we (my father's five siblings, their spouses, and every one of their twenty mostly-adult children) gathered at my grandfather's home. It wasn't long before one of my cousins had located my grandmother's photo albums, at least two dozen in all. We sat for hours in the living room, passing the photo albums around, laughing at how we all looked. (So many Cosby sweaters. So many mustaches. So many mullets.) Often I would get to the end of an album, and immediately start over from the beginning, sometimes taking more time to look through the album than I did the first time. I could hardly put them down. We stayed for a week, and not a day went by where I did not spend at least one hour looking through the albums.

Photo albums are a dying medium, which is too bad, because there's something intensely personal about them, far more personal than flipping through digital images on a camera or a computer screen. For one thing, most photo albums come from a time before you 1) could take as many pictures as you wanted, 2) could actually see the picture you got right after you took it (which is why so many pictures in photo albums are so weird - see example above - it's a tragedy that we're so quick to delete these kinds of shots from our digital cameras). Plus you had to incur the extra time and cost of getting the pictures developed. And all that came before you even get to the part where you put the pictures in the albums. Photo albums are too inconvenient these days. There are far too many overhead costs and barriers to production.