Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Shoe Box Memories – Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the stunning changes that have occurred in the field of photography. For generations, people took photos with rolls of film, sent the film off to be developed, and then weeks later the prints arrived. After flipping through the photos, and commenting that half of them were out of focus and the other half “make me look fat,” the pictures were placed in a shoe box, which was stored away in the back of a closet.

The shoebox archive method was ideal for most families. Whenever you felt a little nostalgic, or if dear old Uncle Ned finally passed away and it was time to prepare the snapshot poster board for the wake, the “shoebox of memories” was waiting for you. Decades of family history was contained inside that cardboard rectangle with the faded words “Thom McAn” on top.
For many, many decades, this method of storing precious family memories was essentially unchanged, except for the switch from black-and-white to color in the 1960s. But then, a fairly short time ago, a quantum leap in technology occurred. The photography industry went digital. No more chemical-coated plastic film. No more sending rolls of film out to be developed. No more envelopes of prints. And no more shoe boxes.

Nowadays, smart phones have built-in cameras and memory chips that can hold literally thousands of photographs. There is no limit to the number of snapshots you can take, and you can view them right away. We now enjoy a new phenomenon: instant reminiscing. “Oh, look at us! Remember how much fun we used to have back, um, four minutes ago?”

Personally, I’m not really into photography. I mean, if I’m at a family gathering and one of my nephews gets especially drunk, I’ll pull out my phone and take some snapshots and videos. Out of curiosity, I just checked my iPhone, which I’ve had for about two-and-a-half years. It currently has 697 photos and videos stored on it. That would’ve been a humongous number of pictures during the shoebox era. It’s no big deal today.

I suspect there are many people, no doubt far younger than me, who take 697 photos every week. And some of these youngsters upload every single one of those images to their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Here’s a sincere question: if you spend every waking hour photographing your life and posting it to social media, when do you find time to actually live your life? Just wonderin’.
Despite the advances in digital technology, there is one thing about amateur photography that has not changed. Whenever we view a photographic image of ourselves, whether on the screen of a smart phone or on a curved square of paper in a shoe box, our first thought is, “Sheesh, I look lousy.” (This only applies to normal people. Fashion models and narcissistic selfie-stickers — who often think they are fashion models — don’t have this reaction.)

There is, of course, one segment of the photography industry that has the technical skill to make even the most beautiful fashion model cringe: the Motor Vehicle Department. Those photographic artists are amazing. Every time I have to renew my driver’s license, it’s an exciting adventure. Who are they going to make me look like this time? Frankenstein? Dracula? Tommy Lee Jones?
Then, for the next six years, that gruesome mug shot is with me everywhere I go, tucked inside my wallet. The sad thing is, when it’s time to renew my license, I look at that six-year-old photo and think, “I wish I still looked that good.”

Oh well, no matter how advanced the technology becomes, there’s nothing like the good ol’ family “shoebox of memories.”

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