Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Is it Really Worth 1,000 Words?


When I was a kid whenever it was time to commemorate a special moment, mom would pull out the camera and take a picture of us.

In the best instances, these pictures were taken on the fly, capturing a candid moment in which the subjects were being that rarest of things — themselves. On more frequent occasions, mom or any adult taking charge of the situation, would have the kids stop, line us up and make us smile.

In between the brandishing of the camera and the burst of the flash, there was a litany of orders.

“Stop making that face.”

“Smile.”

“Move to the front.”

“Put your hand down.”

“Smile!”

In my case, the resulting pictures were typically underwhelming as my awkward, unphotogenic phase began at the age of 8 and should be tapering off any day now.

Regardless of these travails, pictures were always special. There was only so much film and it had to be used judiciously.
 
For the first 12 years of my life the biggest advancement cameras achieved was the introduction of the disposable. And even then, the process was essentially the same.

Take the pictures and have no idea if they turned out until you get them developed — usually about 11 months later. Sometimes the results exceeded expectations and other times the bar was set at a new low. One never knew until they got the film back.

I've got 33 more just like these. 
But whenever the film was developed and those pictures made it home, it was special.

As I type, I have 1,206 pictures and 1 hour and 6 seconds of video on my phone. It all amounts to about 10.1 gigabytes of storage space. This is in addition to the roughly 70 gigabytes of videos and pictures I have on my computer at home, all of which is overwhelmingly of the boy. 

But, unlike years past, I don’t need to wait to see what all of this will look like until I take it to the print shop or slip the cassette into the VCR. I’ve got it right here, right now.

But as the number of files grows, I wonder what to do with all of it. The tens of thousands of pictures. The thousands of videos. Where does it all go now?

With each addition to the digital library, I feel evermore responsibility to do something tangible with it to justify the trouble. 

Many of the pictures we've developed now sit in albums, awaiting the occasional revisiting and that’s a fine use. Some, of course, are framed and sitting on end tables and hanging from walls in our home.

And, some are easier to dispose of than others.
But, this represents a sliver of a fraction of all we've captured so far.

I’ve talked with others about this phenomenon but, they too are stumped. Get some of it developed? Sure, but what about the rest?

Keep it stored? I suppose but, this is hardly secure. I’m using an external device to store this stuff but, it could all be gone in one misplaced click, or too much time spent sitting close to a magnet.

It's not necessarily easier than keeping this type of stuff in a box in the basement is it? 

If there’s a positive to this nagging concern it’s that I believe I have a better understanding of hoarding now.

Sure, you might not want 28 pictures of your son that are — essentially — exactly the same. But, why would you throw them out? What if you ever changed your mind? Then what?

At its core this is all about fear. Fear of what, I have no clue. But I will say that I am extremely pleased that, if this is where my eccentricities and abnormalities are being concentrated and exorcised, I consider myself lucky.

Better to fill up a hard drive than a basement.

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