I am a bit of a photograph nut and always have my eye out for an interesting subject, odd angle, quirky perspective and tricky bit of light. I have always had cameras – my Dad got me started when he bought me my first camera – an Olympus Trip – for my 18th Birthday. Before that I was allowed to borrow his camera occasionally and I remember having a little Instamatic camera to take away with me when I was lucky enough to visit Berlin when I was 12 years old. I still have all the photos in albums. Some are rather faded now but they still prompt memories.
I have most of the negatives too, all collated in envelopes and numbered according to month, year and which photo album the prints are displayed in. I started with the albums that have sticky pages and the cellophane leaves that hold the photos in place as well as protecting them but soon found that I couldn’t fit enough in them and they were bulky to store. So I turned to scrapbooks. The size of the pages also allowed me to create collages with the photos. I rarely got the perfect shot but every picture told part of the story so I would cut around the bits in focus or smiling faces and put them together to form a pictorial story of an event. Real cropping, cutting and pasting! Later on I got a bit arty and started to take panoramic pictures. Of course, the light and the varying height as I turned around as well as the curvature of the land meant that the individual photos never quite matched so I ended up with semicircles of pictures that were too long to fit in the album. I would carefully sellotape them together so that they would concertina together when I closed the book.
In those days I also had to be careful about how many photos I took – after all a film reel only held 36 photos. Remember the anticipation when you sent the reel away to be processed and waited for the envelope to arrive back in the post? How many times was I disappointed when what I imagined were going to be amazing photos turned out to be not up to expectations?
By this time I had a fancier camera; as my Dad replaced his cameras I would be the grateful recipient of his old ones. I now had an SLR and I also moved on to slides rather than prints. Slides are difficult to display in an album but don’t you just love slide shows? I think the magic for me stems from when we were kids and Dad used to show us slides of our holidays. We used to love it when there was a photo of us; very narcissistic, but I used to wait in anticipation of the photos of me and be very excited when there was one! A few years ago when I inherited my Dad’s books of slides I excitedly set to and scanned them all and shared them with my sisters – delight and embarrassment in possibly equal measure!
I think by this time I was seeing myself as a bit of a photographer – I had a couple of lenses and spent time taking photos of plants and landscapes. I also had time pre-children to stop and compose a picture, fiddling with f-stops and apertures and focus. My Dad still criticised the technical shortcomings of my photos (his were always technically excellent) but I reckon mine had more interesting perspectives and had more “soul”.
So there is a period in my life missing from the photo albums when I search through them as it is represented on slides tucked away in boxes. Slide boxes were a bit like how we stored digital photos originally – hidden until we had the means to look at them. We had to get out the slide projector and screen and load the slides into cartridges, close the curtains, switch out the lights and enjoy the magic. For photos stored on our computer we needed to connect to a projector or all peer around a small screen. Not as easy as just whipping out the albums. Although, of course, all the photos were in one place and certainly much easier to carry one computer around than a box of albums! But now with mobile devices and easy to share to sites like Flickr, Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook our photos are so much more available an visible. We can share across continents to family and friends and get instant feedback, we can also edit and create so much more easily. And did I say I was also an Instagram nut! I have my phone in my hand all the time, just looking for a photo. My Instagram account is linked to FB and Twitter and the notifications “Anne-Louise has just uploaded a photo” that my husband receives several times during a day have become a standing joke in the family.
Once children arrived the focus of my photos was people – well my children to be more precise! And we have a comprehensive photo history for us and them to pore over. My eldest son was 21 last year so I spent a few evenings taking photos of old photos and making them into a digital slide show and video with WeVideo which I then uploaded to You Tube.
There is something about those old albums, though. The tactile nature of them is so much more in the present than the collection of digital photos. Maybe it’s the time and effort it took to put the book together, the story they tell, the fact that there are only a few photos rather than the hundred I can take with my phone or a digital camera. Who knows? But my plan for this year is to organise my digital collection more efficiently and put them into albums or slideshows that tell a story. I will also create some picture books like the one I create to mark our very first year in new Zealand so that we have books to pick up and thumb through.