My personal photographs are now utterly out of control. Imagine 80 years worth of photos, from 1940 to 2020, scattered and jumbled in photo books and folders and hard drives and clouds and devices all over the world.
In the 1940s I wasn’t taking any photos, I was in the rather rare photos of my parents. Taking a photo was a big deal, involving the ubiquitous Box Brownie. Twice a year we were corralled for a photo of our mother’s latest feat in clothing us all. Our Dad would make us giggle and press the shutter.
Or something special would happen and Mother would take the photo.
I don’t remember taking any photos in the 1950s, when I was in my teens. Maybe one or two at university. But others did, occasionally. And I would stick copies in a big photo album with annotations.
In the 1960s I married, lived in Geneva for four years, then returned to a life of domestication and motherhood in New Zealand. I remember a twin lens reflex camera, a Yashica A. A bulky thing that required much fiddling with aperture and speed. I have lost track of all the photos of our life in Switzerland, and this is typical of the chaos in my records. I hope they turn up in time for my funeral.
More important are the precious early photos of our children.
Look! This one’s in colour! Maybe this was originally a slide… Maybe this was the era of my husband’s beloved Asahi Pentax…
I took plenty of photos in Japan between 1991 and 1995. The occasional shot came off but my photos were hit-or-miss. By then I may have been using a cute little pocket-sized Olympus mju. Even so, we still had to have copies printed commercially. If you’ve grown up with a smartphone camera, you can’t imagine the deterrent effect of the cost and logistics of printing and storing personal photos. And then they might fade or they might not.
At last, the 21st century! Phone cameras, finally. Take 50, save the best one or two (in principle). Bright, clear images. The camera virtually always at your fingertips. Spontaneity! Creativity! Fun! For point-and-shooters like me, photography has been a delight ever since.
I’ve got much more to say about the way my personal photographs have changed over the years. The subjects and quality have always been affected by technology and the changes in my own life over 80 years. So has the way I have mismanaged them!
I read somewhere that managing digital photographs was one of the biggest challenges for amateur photographers. Is that true for you? Sure is for me.
But meantime I carry on taking more, more, more. For the sake of the planet it’s time for a cull, on a Danish mink farm scale.