I was drowning in digital photographs long BEFORE I got an iPhone, but now I’m buried in them. They exist on my computer, on my phone, on portable hard drives (yes plural), on the Time Capsule, and now, of course, ON THE CLOUD (wherever the fuck that is). Now when I stare at clouds, waiting for them to morph into unicorns and amorphous hearts, I half expect to see my pictures from our family vacation to Mexico.
I’m making myself sound older than I am. I am completely computer proficient; I just exist in a perfection-driven paralysis which prevents me from efficiently organizing – or doing anything – with these photos. Perusing through these digital memories is spectacular: the road trip to Seattle and Portland, my daughter’s first recital, my son’s graduation from elementary school, our wedding! Only I don’t get to flip through the pictures, spread out through my catalog of devices; I just imagine I could. Truthfully, I would prefer to flip through a good ole fashioned photo album, crinkled plastic sheets and all.
A few weeks ago my cousin came over for breakfast and confessed to not having completed her yearly chronologically separated and meticulously curated family photo album. It had been haunting her every night since the turn of the year and finally a 60% off coupon from Snapfish motivated her to spend the week finishing the painstaking design of the book in time for Mother’s Day. I laughed. The last album I made was when my almost 6-year-old was 1. I’M HALF A DECADE BEHIND IN DIGITAL PHOTO ALBUM ORGANIZATION. The task seems too hefty to tackle. I’ve stepped into the mind of a hoarder for a brief second – there are just too many. I can’t delete them, but can’t deal with them either. I just can’t. I step away.
I think to the future – the day I may need to do a slideshow. I have slideshow PTSD nightmares. For my grandparent’s 60th anniversary, the daunting slideshow task fell on me. I was damn good at it – but what a behemoth of a project. I collected images from relatives and photo albums and in the end scanned in over 800 and somehow miraculously compiled them into a 17-minute historical parade of family portraiture set to tunes of “Yiddish Mama” and “Sunrise Sunset.”
I didn’t think anyone would watch 17 minutes of an ordinary family’s life, but somehow it played out extraordinarily well. Pictures and music do that for humans, they send us on memory head trips and forgotten emotions flood right along with them. We witnessed my grandparents first days as husband and wife in Kiev and later, as a new family with my mom and uncle as children. Life moved as the pictures faded from one into the other revealing family vacations, then coming to America. How one life evolved into a second life with a new language, a new flag, new freedoms.
I’ve always believed in the power of images. I’ve taken photographs most of my life as a passionate hobby. It’s quite common for a writer to also be a photographer because we scrutinize life; the way we tell our story is the way we frame our shots. We choose where to put the square around a moment in the same way we choose the words we select to tell our tales.
So I continue to take pictures, just like everyone else, to over-document my life – special moments equal to ordinary ones. Deleting will have to wait – as will the photo albums. For now, I’ll count on the cloud to suspend my memories in a dream-like vault until they need remembering or reviving.