Thursday, July 14, 2016

Photos Then and Now

Keli Gwyn here with a confession. I like to snap pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

I remember my ninth birthday present well. My parents had said that I had to be nine before I could hope to get a camera. My dream came true that summer, and I became the proud owner of a Kodak Instamatic.

I loved that boxy little camera with its four-use flashbulbs that made a delightful pop when used. Because film developing cost a lot, I didn't get a new roll of film very often and was choosy about the pictures I took. I only have a couple hundred photographs taken during that era.

Fast forward twenty-two years. I became a mother, and I went snap happy. I'd been a point and shoot gal until then, but I learned how to use my husband's fancy Olympus camera with all its dials and settings. One must get the very best shot of one's baby, after all.

Years passed, and I kept right on taking pictures. More and more pictures. I would come home from vacation with ten or more film canisters ready to be developed. Since I was so eager to relive our experiences and since it cost little more to get duplicate prints, I ended up with boxes and boxes of prints. (The picture only shows about a third of the photos.)

I recently pulled out my stash of photos, most of which have yet to make it into albums, and began the emotionally challenging task of choosing which to keep and which to toss. Not an easy feat. (Those in the middle outside of the boxes are going. Maybe...)

Although I was a late adopter, I entered the digital age a number of years ago. Like many, I take oodles of pictures these days. It's so easy to do. I've had my new laptop less than a year, and I've already got over 1,100 photos stored on it. My previous laptop is home to over 10,000.

As I've been dealing with my plethora of pictures, I came across a stack of cartes de visite. They're those small, old-fashioned, cardboard-mounted photographs that were popular in the 1860s and 1870s. I was delighted when I found a huge basket of them in a local antique store a few years back. The images serve as inspiration for my characters.

What struck me, due to my purging pictures project, was how special these photographs must have been to the people who posed for them. It's likely that for many of them, this was one of but a few pictures they ever had taken. I'm sure they treasured them and that they would have been one of the first items grabbed in case of a fire.

I love my photos, too, but I'm learning the value of having fewer of them. When I upload images to my computer these days, I try to save only the best and delete the rest. I want those I keep to be the best representations of my experiences. When I get mired down during the decision making, I pull out those antique photos and remember that less can be more.

Questions for You

Do you have more photos than you know what to do with?

How do you choose which pictures to keep and which to part with?

Do you have any special photos from your ancestors?


  1. Yes, I have too many photos.
    I've never tried weeding them out.
    I have a knee-high plastic tub of photos from my parents' house with all kinds of old family pictures that I'm supposed to be scanning and returning to my brother.

  2. I have a lot of photos, but nowhere near your stash! I love looking through photos, but I'm the type who forgets to take pictures during the experience. It usually takes someone else pulling out their camera or phone to remind me that I ought to capture the moment also. Even with fewer, I dread the thought of going through them one day. My family has many wonderful photo albums of family ancestors. Those have been a favorite thing to peruse since childhood.

  3. Hi Keli,

    I was always the worst photographer. My hand just couldn't hold steady so the pictures were always blurry. Not that I was deterred all the time. Right before our honeymoon in Ireland, I got a new disk camera that had a button that pushed in rather than down. I took hundreds of photos of that trip. Sadly, 30 years later, most of those have faded badly.

    My husband is the one with all the fancy equipment so I deferred to him for many years, but digital photos saved me. Now I can snap and discard until I get one I like.

  4. I became a scrapbooker after college because i wanted to do more than put them in photo albums n mum had been doing some classes. So when i go on trip, birthday parties, christmas... i take lots of photos. I mainly print off those that represent a memory or place i was at. Its funny cause my mum n i often group our photos after trips but pick diferent ones that we like

  5. I feel for you, Jean. Your task isn't an easy one. I inherited most of my beloved in-laws' photos as well as my father's. They're treasures, to be sure, but I have more pictures than I know what to do with. I will pare them down at some point, but I'll have tissue nearby when I do because mushy me is sure to get emotional.

  6. Christine, family pictures dating back to generations past are a real gift, aren't they? I have an album that has some of those old cardboard-mounted cartes de visite. Unfortunately, I have no idea who is in them since even my father-in-law, whose ancestors they were, couldn't tell me. I'm grateful that my mother-in-law was good about writing notes on the back of the pictures from her side of the family.

  7. Cate, it seems one person ends up serving as the family photographer, doesn't it? Sadly, that person is rarely seen in pictures. That's why we have few pictures of my beloved mother-in-law. I learned from that and have tried to be good about handing my camera to my husband or daughter to get a picture of me since I'm the one who snaps the most pics in our family.

  8. Scraparoni, it's great that you're documenting your family's experiences in scrapbooks. You'll treasure those for years to come.


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