By Elizabeth Svokos
Two weeks ago my computer crashed. I lost all my photographs. My trip to China last summer,
my mom’s 50th birthday party, a really embarrassing picture of Juliana Reyes from freshman
year: gone, gone, gone. Digital photographs, you are the worst.
Didn’t you grow up looking at old pictures of your family and friends? We've replaced passing those weathered photos around the table has with with crowding around a laptop to click our ways through a Facebook album of “enhanced” photos with embossed edges.
Digital cameras? Don’t get me started. The ability to see picture you just took has made it nearly impossible to find a bad picture of someone these days. But isn’t the best picture in your family album the one of your uncle looking constipated? Well, that photo wouldn’t exist if he could have seen the monstrosity and deleted it off the camera right then and there. There’s no room for imperfection when you can remove red eyes and blot out pimples with a click of your mouse.
We live in a world of instant gratification. Wanting to see a photograph an instant after it was taken is basically second nature. So much for building anticipation. So much for trips to the drug store to pick up the film and tear it open before you even reach your car, wondering what kind of crazy shit you captured on this film. Oh, that night. Where did we find a kiddie pool?
There is also something incredibly exciting about the one-shot chance you get with a film camera. Everyone knows you only get one moment to make the shot count, and the excitement builds. There’s no pre-flash red light to warn you when to smile your best; you just go for it, giggling, and hope no one’s finger is blocking the lens. And if it is, well now they’re just in the picture too. The more the merrier.
These reasons and the Great Computer Crash of 2009 prompted me to buy a $10 film camera from the thrift store down the street. My first prints came out perfectly. Now at least I can show my kids photos of my life by handing them the actual pictures instead of emailing them a link to an online album.
If I had printed with film earlier, I would still be able to look at my sisters and myself posing on the Great Wall of China. And I’d still have the option of using that picture of Juliana as blackmail someday. But now that we can't physically hold photographs, they are entirely in the hands of technology. They can be altered, enhanced, touched up, and even lost forever.
I, for one, would rather look back on my memories the way my mom does: opening the tin box of photographs in her side table drawer and flipping through them, smiling at her life captured in the imperfect and beautiful photographs. Smudge marks and rips on the edges from passing them around so much and knowing that one has a crack down the middle from carrying it in her wallet for 20 years.