My grandmother’s cupboard had a particular smell. Actually, her whole house did, but in the cupboard that nostalgic nanna-smell was strongest. This cupboard was one of the most exciting things about our visits. When I was little it contained brand new toys and Christmas presents that she’d “forgotten” about that would be given to us when we discovered them. When I was 15 I found her wedding dress and I thought it was so special being allowed to try it on. On one of my last real visits it was the boxes of photographs stashed in that cupboard that held me captive for hours.
Black and white, or sepia-toned with rounded corners they documented the childhoods of my grandparents and my mum and her siblings. Holy Communions and 70’s bikini’s and various weddings and cousins and old fashioned cars and furniture.
What about my kids? And grandchildren? Will they love my funny-smelling cupboard? What will they find in there? At this stage, not a lot of photos. And although their generation is the most micro-documented in history, will their childhoods be lost on old iPhones and computers, or will we rely on Instagram to scroll through and show them the highlight reel of their childhood? We have camera roll after camera roll full of photos, and computers full to the brim of all our digital images but what about pictures we can hold?
Ones we can sit and share with little people peeking over our shoulders and asking to see, and holding them close to their faces. Our kids love to look at photos, especially of themselves when they were babies or toddlers, or of their birthday cakes and blowing out candles. And though I’m documenting them well, I’m not keeping them well enough.
So much of what we share online is our highlight reel. The crisp, perfect images carefully selected to compliment our Instagram feed (I’m guilty! Completely!) but what we fail to remember is that life is so much bigger, and more beautiful and more real than those perfect images. It’s big and messy and beautiful and sometimes the shots that tell the best stories about us are the ones that are blurred or have the mountain of washing or the dirty socks strewn on the floor in the background. The real, day to day stuff that life is made of that my kids will want to remember, and show their own children one day.
So I’ve made a promise to myself. To create tangible, holdable photos, and photobooks and albums. Not to let special moments [assemblies, merit certificates, tooth fairy visits, Easter hat parades, daddy cuddles] get lost in my camera roll.
To print photos that we can sit down with friends and share, over coffee, with eye contact.
Ones that show the real, unstyled us that we’ll want to remember in years to come.
Documenting well, keeping forever.
* Above photo book printed through Snapfish – the perfect Father’s Day present for my dad, a book documenting our school holiday visit to Bridgetown