I’m not sure if I actually truly remember my ‘earliest memories’ or if it’s because I was exposed to photographs of myself that helped me form them. If asked what my earliest memory is the most vivid one I can conjure up, is waking up early one morning at the age of say 3, the light was streaming in the curtains of my window and birds were chirping outside. I snuck out of bed and just sat on the window sill in my room to peek out at the world.
I even remember details like the early morning dew on the window pane and the single daffodil in a vase that smelled so heavenly. I remember the naughty feeling, of having snuck out of bed early & the fleeting impulse to run back to bed & dive under the covers before I’m discovered.
Do I remember my father sneaking up and taking a photo of me? Nope. Have I just made up, embellished, and filled in the blanks in this ‘memory’ yep. Almost certainly. That photo of me on the window sill, taken and printed by my dad sat in my bedroom for years, and its almost impossible to pick it apart from the ‘memory’ I have attached to it. Through the passage of time, I cant tell. And to be honest I don’t really care. That ‘memory’ is still one of the most tangible I have, and one of the fondest moments I think back to when I think about living in my childhood home. What a beautiful, peaceful moment to have locked away in my vault of ‘life moments’
There is another, taken when I was maybe 10 (so plenty old enough to remember the moment) that has been displayed in my family home for nearly 20 years now. I can conjure up that image so clearly in my mind’s eye, but more than that, I can feel that evening sun on my face, the rough feel of the bark beneath my hands. When I think about this photo I can feel my face automatically forming into the happy contented smile that it captured so well. I feel like that photo was the first time you could truly see ‘me’ peeking through in my smile. The woman I grew up to be, not the child.
My father was incredibly good at capturing our childhood (for which I will always be grateful!), and there are countless other precious moments stored in many dusty 90s style slip in photo albums. Those are special too, and looking through them always brings a smile to my face. However, most of them have not helped me form/keep memories of the moments they contain. Purely because they were not AROUND ME. The handful of times I looked through them over the years was not enough to make them any more than a photograph. I know they are of me I guess, and I have no doubt that these moments existed, but I can’t FEEL that sun on my face, or smell the morning air like I can with the photographs that I grew up looking at every day
Studies have shown that photography helps boost children’s self-confidence, which I think is pretty darn cool! A study done of a group of fourth graders at Tennessee school by Tulane University in 1975 revealed a significant increase of 37 percent in the students’ average self-esteem behaviours after a 5 week period of taking polaroid self-portraits, and scrapbooking the resulting images. Some educational psychologists believe that displaying family portraits is especially beneficial for children. They see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. They know that they are loved, and have an important place in the world. I believe they also help illustrate and solidify your children’s childhood ‘memories’ In today’s digital age, where 90% of photographs are taken with your camera phone. What will our children’s memories be?
Would that beautiful moment I so clearly remember sitting on my window box on a spring morning exist for me if my father had not only taken it, but made the effort to print it, and display it in our home? I’m certain it wouldn’t and I’m just as sure I wouldn’t miss it. Its just one moment, and you can’t miss something that doesn’t exist. But my life feels a little happier for it, and that means something.
I can certainly understand the need to want to keep your memories ‘safe’ by making sure you have digital copies, and after all, having a digital image means you can put off making a decision about what to do with the image. As long as you have ‘got it’ right?
There are any number of arguments as to why a photograph should be printed to be preserved. Most of which aren’t really for this blog. Its popular among photographers to remind people that printed photographs are the lasting legacy that we leave behind for future generations (all true!!)
I’m here to remind you that your photographs are also for your NOW, not just for your profile photo & a few Instagram posts. They are for your children, next week, next month, when they get old enough to point out each family member, once they start school, and when they’re grown enough that the photos now embarrass them ;) Even after you take them down off the walls to be replaced with photos of holidays and grandkids, they will carry those moments with them through the rest of their lives.
So whether you have invested in professional portraits or just taken a few holiday snaps that are sitting on your hard drive, this is your reminder to do something with them. Go out and get something real and tangible created with them. Put them on the walls in the living room, and put something in a wee frame in your kids’ bedroom so it can be among the last things they see before sleep and one of the first thing they see before beginning their day. Give your children the gift of beautiful memories <3