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New Lessons From Old Photos (or, Living Vivaciously)

by Cheney — February 11, 2019
new lessons, old photos, archives, memories

I certainly expected some embarrassment when sorting through my archive of old photos, but a touch of perspective was a nice bonus.

I’ve had my current laptop for nine years–I think that must be some sort of record. But alas, its days are numbered. It’s been getting hot and bothered from minimal browsing lately, and I worry that at any moment, it’ll seize up and refuse to go on. This wouldn’t be much of an issue–I’ve had many years of faithful service–if it weren’t for my lack of backups. I’ve got nine years of photos stored exclusively on this computer, so I’ve had to take action. A laptop retirement plan, if you will.

In moving the photos elsewhere, I’m also taking time to do a bit of an edit. I’m not entirely sure they’re all worth saving. During the process, besides the nice walk down memory lane, I’ve realised some things.

I look better than I thought I did. This isn’t a brag. Maybe the last nine years have been tough on my face, or maybe I’ve learned to be easier on myself. But I remember, at the time many of these photos were taken, thinking, “Ugh, my nose looks awful” or “My hair is SO weird”. When I look at them now, I’m kinder. I think instead about how much fun that day was, or how happy I looked. I’m glad I didn’t delete those pictures, as was sometimes my instinct. I wonder why I nitpicked my appearance and can appreciate my good features more. I think perhaps there’s a lesson in this for the present.

People evoke more memories than landscapes. I’m not much of a fan of inserting myself in a nice picture of some mountain scenery, just to provide documentary evidence of my being there. Plus, it ruins the lines. But I’m finding I cherish the photos with my friends and family more than another image of a sunset. I think I’ll make more of an effort to take pictures of the people I love in future. Not just because I want to tease them about their haircuts in another nine years.

memories, new lessons, old photos

I take a lot of pictures of food. Even before I had an Instagram account, I was obsessed with documenting the things I ate. My travel diaries are almost exclusively devoted to meals too. I sometimes think it’s because food is a good way to conjure up a strong sense of place–sights, smells, taste – when you’re not there anymore. Unfortunately for me, practice doesn’t always make perfect. I’m not going to be winning awards for my sushi photography anytime soon. Restaurant lighting is the worst.

My favourite photos aren’t always the prettiest ones. When looking back, the images that made me laugh hardest, or conjured up the best memories, weren’t perfectly composed. They might have been of some little odd thing I saw or a random encounter I had. Most would never make an appearance on social media. It’s odd, when you think about it, that so many of the photos we take seem to be for the benefit of other people. It makes even less sense when you consider that, unless you’re famous, the person who will look at your own photos most is you or your family.

I’m hoping I can keep some of these thoughts present, along with a new resolve towards proper backups, in future photographic endeavours. Except for the food photography improvement–I think it’s generally frowned upon to bring a lighting rig to a pizza parlour. Got any tips for an amateur?

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