Beyond my wife, children, their spouses, grandchildren (and future grandchildren), and family, my greatest treasure is our lifetime of photos. Photos have always fascinated me and I have them around me everywhere. While I love photos of beautiful places and beautiful items, the photos that are most important to me are the photos of our lives, certainly those capturing special events but even those just showing our everyday lives. When I think about what a terrible tragedy it would be to lose our house in a fire, the items I think of first that I would want to save are the photos and photo albums.
I can’t recall the first camera I had or when I might have gotten it; it might have been when Polaroid came out with some of their inexpensive instant cameras or it might have been one of those small cartridge Kodak cameras. But I do know the first really nice camera I got was when I was in college and purchased a 35 mm camera—a Cannon FTB Single Lens Reflex (SLR)—for a photography class that I was taking. In this class, I learned a lot about taking photographs and even how to develop and print my own pictures. And so it was with this camera that my lifetime of taking photographs really began.
My first photo album dates back to August 1977. I know this because being the organized and detailed person that I am, I put a sticker at the beginning of each album designating the month and year of the first photos in that album. These first images capture a summer vacation to my favorite spot, Montreat, NC and what has become one of my favorite shots of my Dad.
This album also includes some trips I took in college with some of my fraternity brothers to Florida and the Smoky Mountains.
Not long before I graduated from college, I met the woman who would become my wife and so my camera captured events leading up to our engagement…
…and our first years of marriage.
Not long after we started our family, I recognized that if I wanted to capture special moments or fleeting expressions of our children, I would need a camera that didn’t require manual adjustments of shutter speed, f-stop, and focus. While early “point and shoot” cameras sacrificed some in picture quality with their fixed focus lenses, their speed of use allowed me to capture some shots I would have missed if I were still relying on a manual camera.
Starting with our first child in 1981, I diligently catalogued, in chronological order our photos into albums until about 1994.
Then after our third child was about seven years old, I didn’t seem to have time to organize our photos into albums any longer. With three children and all their birthdays, vacations, and extracurricular activities, I was getting at least a roll of film developed every month and sometimes several rolls from a single event. The photos remained in their paper sleeves from the developer along with the developed negatives.
To keep the photos from getting lost until the day I had time to put them into albums, I began stuffing them into a shoebox. After a little over four years, I had accumulated two shoeboxes full of photos.
In January 1998, I managed to find the time to get back to putting photos into an album. But rather than starting with the two boxes of loose photos, I simply began again with recent photos starting with a trip my wife and I took to Amsterdam for teaching my class.
I diligently kept up this practice for the next five years although never having enough time to go back and pick up those loose photos.
Then in 2003, I bought my first digital camera, a small point and shoot. When I entered the digital world of photography, I still wanted to keep up my practice of putting photos into albums. I bought a printer and began to print my own photos to put into albums.
But when I compared my printed photo to the image on my computer screen of the same photo, I was sorely disappointed. The photo seemed to possess such vibrant colors that were simply lost in the printed version. I debated what to do for a while and eventually decided to give up the paper world and simply store my photos digitally. I even bought a projector to show off my photos in a truly large presentation format, much like people in earlier times displayed their vacation color slides.
At first, this was a hard choice since for my entire life, I was so used to having photo albums around to look through. But to ease the transition, I decided to keep up my chronological practice and so began to store my digital photos in folders by year and event. As I began to build an ever-increasing digital photo library, I became even more pleased with the results. In fact, I decided that I much preferred digital images to hardcopy, paper photos, something about the projected color image having superior quality to the reflected image.
With this digital preference in mind, I began to explore the possibility of scanning in all of our old photos. However, with over 25 years of photos amassed in 23 albums and two large shoeboxes, I quickly realized this would be a daunting undertaking. Then I came up with the idea of scanning in photos of just our kids over their entire lives. While this was still a significant number of photos, I decided to mainly focus on significant events, birthdays, first days of school, Christmas, and the like.
One fall while watching college football, I scanned in over 800 photos of our children. For Christmas that year, I gave each of our kids CDs that contained almost 900 photos of the three of them, both individually as well as together. They loved them and in fact my daughter used some of them for a slide show at her wedding reception, one of the uses I had hoped they would realize one day as I laboriously scanned each one in.
These Christmas gifts were received so well that year, that for the next year, I decided to scan in pictures of my wife and I over our engaged and married life together. This too was an appreciated gift.
Then along came those wonderful Apple products, iPhones, and iPads, and Mini-iPads. Suddenly with this technology, all of my digital photos were easily transportable to show off anywhere anytime.
Recently my sister took my parents old photo albums, inclusive of some photos dating back to the 1930s and scanned them in for my siblings and me. Now I had digital photos spanning over eight decades.
With the aid of an iPhone with larger capacity memory, I now have those eight decades of photos all on my phone—my parent’s photo albums and every digital photo I have ever taken or scanned in, up to and including the most recent ones of my grandson. Since I have this phone with me pretty much everywhere I go, I can at any time pull up any photo. And what of that potential fire loss I mentioned in the opening paragraph, well I now keep three separate digital backups, one of which is stored at an offsite location. Because when you are dealing with treasures accumulated over four generations, you can’t be too careful or too cautious.