My daughter, Madi’s, 19th birthday is today.
And because my wife takes great pleasure in trying to embarrass our children (she rarely succeeds because they all have the same sense of humor so they think it’s funny) she decided to post childhood photos of Madi on Facebook all day. So, last night, we went to find the photos. But, we didn’t have to comb through CD’s (and pray they open) or plug in endless hard drives and cross our fingers…no, we didn’t have to do any of that. Instead, we went to the bookshelf and the closet, and removed albums and boxes filled with paper prints.
And we sat at the kitchen table, and poured over them all. We held them in our hands and passed them back and forth and things like, “Oh my gosh…remember this?” and “I forgot about that!” and after about 15 minutes of laughing and crying, my wife looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I am so glad that digital wasn’t around when the children were little. We would never have these. And more importantly, the children would never have these.”
And it took me back when she said it, because we shoot digital. I happen to love it. Going from film in a Hasselblad to a hand held Canon DSLR 15 years ago was incredibly freeing. I felt it in my work and in my attitude. But, I knew what she meant.
Because how many digital photos have been lost since digital began?
How many CD’s that got shared online once or twice, but never got printed? And then when you found the CD in the bottom of the drawer, if at all, it refused to open?
How many smart phone photos died with the phone?
What we were holding in our hands were snapshots, but what about those precious family images? Or Senior pictures? And although I knew it, last night just reinforced what we, as a studio and what I, as a photographer believe: In order to preserve them, you have to print them. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE to share images online, but we also know that a pixel has little value unless, with care and attention to detail, it is transferred to paper and made into something tangible- an image that will be passed down for generations.
I don’t know how long a pixel will last, because I don’t know how long the storage medium will last. The big stores like Costco and Staples are already phasing out CD’s and in order to use the cloud, well, you have to have electricity. I think about that and it kind of blows my mind.
But a print, on a wall, stands the the test of time.
So, Happy Birthday, Madi girl. We love you and your brother more than we ever thought it possible to love. Every day, you remind us of what’s important, and holding pictures of you in our hands, you did once again.
(Note: After being knee deep in photos last night, my wife immediately uploaded all the images from her phone this morning to be printed. Even a cell phone picture is a terrible thing to lose.)