Sucking in my last lungfuls of air before an avalanche cuts off both by oxygen and the route to freedom. Sheer walls surround me, each one a solid, heavy block. One false move and I’m a goner. Gingerly I edge my way through the danger zone, past soft piles and hard walls. Where do I start digging? I have to make my way through this. Somehow.
“How did I get myself in this position?” “Why can’t I just ditch this project?”
It’s because it’s a record of who I am. These towering walls of photo albums, and slithering piles of photos are the real deal. Not the digital kind.
It’s because photos of our lives are beautiful. That is, except the ones where I’m looking like the Good Year blimp, or the ones where my interior eye-goosh is reflecting out my pupils, giving me a kind of “Day of the Dead” look. And maybe that one where I had a wedgie and was half smiling and with one cocked cheek was trying to psychically manipulate my buttocks and undies. But I want freedom too. Freedom, that is, from untold thousands of photos.
Do you remember getting your first camera? Mine was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic 100. I got it
for Christmas when I was 14 and we were living in Hong Kong. My brother and I were unbelievably proud camera owners (our father was a cameraman). Clearly we were now important people.
I’m not sure that we knew much better but the photos it took were – shall we say – not fabulous.
This view of Victoria Peak in 1974 is misty, but at least half the mist is optically generated not atmospherically!….it was the camera. But do I throw the photo out? No of course not, I keep it because it’s part of me, my memories. Actually… it’s also pretty amazing…that’s what Central Honkers looked like in 1974.
The point is, since then, I’ve been a clicker. An unadulterated over zealous, annoyingly repetitive, fanatically keen photo taker. (Just to clarify, I don’t walk around with thirteen cameras hanging off my neck,…I just have one. OK two – a video camera and a still camera. But I’m monogamous, I only do one at a time.)
I snap at birthdays, I click at Christmas, I record our holidays, my sons’s childhoods….oh God, I think I overdid those just a tad. I run off a few at picnics, weddings, or just sunsets and great clouds. I even take photos of photos…when I need a copy of someone else’s old photo. Hell yeah…I have my husband’s photos, mother’s photos, my father’s photos, my grandparent’s photos….all the antiquey, vintagey photos you could possibly want, I have. (That just added another couple of thousand). Add to that the fact my dad was a cameraman…clicketty click…. My childhood is documented better than Prince William’s. It would be no stretch to say that I am the dubiously proud owner of a few hundred thousand paper photos.
They’re in albums, boxes, envelopes and piles.
The result? Kill me now.
But wait, the avalanche might yet do the job for me. Like, literally hundreds of thousands of photos are going to slither down off their piles, and bury me in the storeroom under layers and layers of Great Aunt Kate’s house in 1969, my brother’s M grade grand final 1971, and other fairly irrelevant artifacts. So why, in heaven’s good name, do I keep all this stuff? and WHAT the hell to do with it?
I will kiss the hem of the skirt of whomever invented digital photography. Out there, in some parallel digital universe, someone else is being suffocated with the terabytes of photos out there in cyberspace. They’re being pixelated to death. But unless my hard drive carks it under the weight of so many pixels, then I’m safe for now.
Death by photo can be a slow, torturous ordeal. Cellulose suffocation, neural overload, trashcan obesity,…not to mention paper cuts. It’s awful. Thank the Lord my children aren’t going to have to deal with it. It’s a Gen X and Baby Boomers thing. Gen Z, or iGen as some Apple lover has dubbed them, have other things to deal with. What are they going to do with all those orphan charger cables? the old Nokias? the GameBoy Pockets and DS games?? Oh God, it opens up a whole new genre of mental health issues. I can hear it now…
“Man, 27, hangs himself with his vintage ipod nano charger, suffered from deep digital depression, after discovering yet another box of unlabelled lithium ion batteries and memory cards under his bed.”
But I, a Generation X purist, saved up my newly decimal currency and used to purchase a Kodak 12, 24, or if I was really splurging, a 36 exposure film. (Sometimes if I was being extra radical I bought Fujifilm or Agfa.) You picked up these little boxes of film from the chemist or supermarket. You carefully loaded the spool into the back of your camera (Grandma always had to ask one of us kids to do it…the technology was getting tooooo much, even then!! ha ha!!) wound it on with a ‘wind, click, wind, click’ until the little window told you that the first exposure was ready to go and then you stopped until it was time for a photo.
In those days (1960s and 70s) you’d get REALLY annoyed at your idiot cousin for crossing her eyes in the family portrait – it cost about $1.50 per photo for the film and the developing. You didn’t waste a picture… you took just one of only the most important things. It cost too much to do anything else. You paid through the nose to send it off to the lab to be developed, waited 2 weeks and went down to the shops to collect your prints.
I did that hundreds of times. In the 80’s of course, we got the choice of double prints. Of COURSE I want double prints, what a dumb question. In the 90s you could easily get enlargements for photo frames. Obviously I did. Add to that all those teensy little strips of brown ‘negatives’. Who keeps all that stuff? I mean – seriously, do you EVER need the negatives. Sadly for my store room, I did. I kept them.
Now I have to deal with it before the weight of all that paper causes the foundations to sink. Lucky for me I’m fairly methodical and an amazon kindle cord is not long enough to go around my neck. Neither is the Sony camera one. So that leaves only one alternative. I have to sort and digitise.
So I followed this plan –
- Make a plan. (That’s like making a list and the first thing on your list is to make a list.) What did I want? Get rid of them? store them? sort them? digitise?
- Storage – where were they going to go now?
- Sorting – this took forever – I followed a strict plan as I didn’t want to do this over again. First I sorted into family, then generations, then into people, and then decades.
- Throwing out – all the doubles, the finger in the way ones, the trees and inexplicable scenery, stupid dogs and other people’s (less gorgeous than mine) children.
If you want a really in great plan to follow, have a look at this blog by HOCUS FOCUS.
Particularly the posts on : Organising your family photos – 1 and Organising your family photos – 2 . There’s also a post on What to do with Albums: HERE.