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Photos as Keepsakes: The Digital Age

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Photos as Keepsakes: The Digital AgeSome of the best moments in your life are probably only preserved on a scrap of photographic paper – grainy images from a carefree childhood, or the gawky look of your adolescence with a friend who may have had a premature death. Photographs have long been the only way we had of preserving our collective memories. Since the invention of the camera, photos have been around to remind us of people, places and moments in time – make us smile in reflection, or have moist eyes at our recollection.
So what’s happening to the photo concept around us? Today friends are taking pictures of each other on their cell phones, eating a burger or going to the multiplex. Handycams and digicams have made the old home movie concept obsolete – anything can now be made into a movie and captured and stored on a CD at home. YouTube has made movie making a completely competitive arena for global amateurs. The ‘photo’ as we know it has been processed and re-processed into something completely different.
And yet, it is hard to get away from the sheer reality of the individual photograph, or the solid feel of photos stuck into albums. I remember journeys on the local trains of Mumbai in the early eighties, when even computers were rare appliances, seen in some offices alone (those were the days when fast electric typewriters or ‘word processors’ were still treated with awe!). On these morning journeys in the Ladies’ compartment, albums of photos – of weddings and engagement ceremonies, baby birthdays and office parties were being continually passed around among the women. It gave us so much joy to peer into other people’s lives through those plastic and paper rectangles.
It may appear as if photography in the digital age has become so liberated from old-fashioned restraints that we no longer need the outdated camera and film roll. But don’t be in such a hurry to throw away your automatic, or even your more precious manual SLR. If you ever feel tempted to, just consider:

  • When you are in love and your loved one is far away, can you moon about, crying, hugging a digital camera that contains his or her photo? Or sit in front of a computer screen with your eyes welling up? Isn’t it still much simpler and easier to have a physical photo in your bag or wallet, that you can take out whenever you want, kiss, gaze longingly at, and cry to?
  • Long after your wedding, when you have moved several houses, many computers have crashed, and your children have destroyed almost your entire CD collection, won’t you be grateful for all those images of your wedding that you have safe in a trunk – as photos in albums?
  • If your house is on fire, or during an earthquake, will you leave behind the photos of your family life that you were browsing in an album at your bedside, just before you went to sleep?

There are these and plenty more reasons why you should hang on to the physical photo concept just for now. Photos still make great keepsakes.   

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