They smile up, gummy at first, then gap toothed a few years later. Rolling over, crawling and toddling steps. They run and jump, kick and throw. They sling arms around each other in camaraderie, they laugh. A lot.
The stuttering click of the camera shutter is as much a part of sport to me as the roar of the crowd or referee’s whistle. And I love formal dances for the forced photo opportunities. It’s a time when teenagers will willingly stand and preen and pose. It’s OK to pose. They don’t have to pretend not to care.
I easily snap 3,000 photos every month. It’s probably closer to 10,000, but I edged the number down so as not to appear entirely crazy. I am the unofficial photographer for a couple of high school teams, and it is an honor and a privilege to capture these moments for them.
“Did you get it?” “Did you get my ball, shot, play?” “Can I see it?” “Where will you post it?”
I photograph the game and the gathering after. I’m not going to lie, the after shots are my favorites. I like the laughter, the rolling around on the grass, even the tossing hot dog buns at each other have a certain spirit.
I like the cute couples, the frosting smear wars and the parents caught gazing in wonder at this amazing transformation from helpless infant to athlete.
I know that to them it happened in the blink of an eye, or the click of a camera shutter. I know that in another click or blink, if we are so blessed, we will be photographing graduations, showers and weddings. Time marches on while we work to capture it.
Smartphone cameras have really improved. Ever present in many pockets and hands, they take wonderful photos beautiful videos. I still cringe, however when I hear people say that they have years of photographs, including priceless first or final memories, stuck in a device or buried in a memory card.
I still recall a dear friend who lost her son’s graduation photos because they were all on a smartphone that had not synced properly for back up. While it is fun to flip quickly to our photo album on our phone to show our friends all the amazing highlights of our lives in a sort of 21st century version of the old fold-out wallet photos, this does not replace old-fashioned archival printing.
I do not print the thousands of photos I take, of course. That would lead to an episode of hoarders. What I do is back up everything. And back up everything again. Most importantly, I print both highlights and everyday photos throughout the year.
While we have somehow become convinced as a society that prints are fragile, the truth is that museums, family albums, attics and dusty drawers house prints going back well over 100 years. If a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, then a print you can hold and show will far outlast any technology which changes almost as quickly as we can buy the next big thing.
I fear that photos kept on memory cards will someday be as useful as 8-track tapes. If you think that technology at this point can’t change much and photos on a computer or device will always be around for you, I ask only that you consider how often you enjoy watching 8 mm and 16 mm films these days. How about those VHS videos? Pity the folks who sprung for Betamax.
Just do it
Photo prints are cheaper than ever. Seriously, they cost maybe a dime. If you do nothing else, please pick 500 photos every year. Go for 300 if 500 seems too many. Pick those. The first. The last. The Everyday. Print them. Put them in an album. A frame. A box.
It is my fervent hope that you will enjoy the thousands of photos most of us take for generations to come. This is why this lecture is necessary. And yes I’m calling it a lecture: People, please print your photographs. The weddings, graduations, baby showers and baseball games all deserve the minimal cost involved. I am often asked what kind of camera I use. It is flattering that people like my photographs even if they ask with the mistaken idea that the camera makes the pictures.
The camera may assist in the capture of the picture, but the memory makes the photo.
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