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What About This..? 7.27.2017

By Wayne William Cipriano

Nobody takes photographs anymore. Yes, I understand there are cell phones that can take pictures, and just about everyone has one in their hands –– sitting, standing, walking, sleeping, driving, attending school….and just because I don’t have one does not mean cell phones with that capability are a bad idea.

How many times have those phones/cameras come in handy right after a traffic accident, a crime, during a repair disassembly, or before construction is completed, or times when memorializing on the spur of the moment is advantageous?

There is no question that hundreds or thousands of phone pictures are now taken for every one photo-graphic image that was taken before cell phones came along.  And while each of these cell phone pictures can, I’m sure, be printed to look as good or better than the old drug store envelope full of over/under exposed blurry shots, how often are those cell phone images actually reproduced on paper?  How many times does a technological fault of the cell phone, or the service provider, or the “Cloud” (whatever that is), not to mention dropping the phone in the pool, result in a loss of all those wasted pixels and a few of the really important pictures you took with your phone?

We move on and I am sure portrait painters using oil on canvas said these same things when photographic cameras appeared –– well, not the same things but complaints nonetheless.  But looking over family photo albums as we recently did heighted the loss we all share when these images, once photographic now electronic, disappear.  Can’t you call to mind the interviews we’ve seen with people whose homes were about to be destroyed by some impending calamity? You almost always hear someone, usually the matriarch, report that the things they saved right after the children were the family photo albums.

Sure, as you page through them you always find several pictures of people no one remembers; but you never remove those photos and discard them, do you?  The mere fact that someone pointed a Brownie Instamatic at someone else, usually well turned out and always sporting a smile, made that photograph impor-tant and insured its eternal position in the family album, even if no one remembers her.

Familiarity, or in this case, ease, breed contempt.  And even though we can easily flip (or swipe) through a cell phone and see 100s or 1000s of images, who does?  Ever.  Who sits around the blue glow of a cell phone, perhaps with a bowl of popcorn, and plays the game, “Is that great Uncle Harold, or is it the bus driver on the East Main Route, or ….?

It’s not like we would be spared those “bathing beauty” photos of Grandma when she was a sweet young thing – it’s just that now she wouldn’t know they were being taken and cannot get hold of the negatives and all (or most) of the prints.

It’s a function of old age to aggrandize things of the past and denigrate “modern” developments, even when those developments are vast improvements. I see those ten-dencies in myself frequently.  But sometimes those developments are a step backwards, trading in ignorance, convenience, laziness, disposability, and so on as they often do.

Photographs posed, printed, and mounted in albums to be passed down generation to generation may be a thing of the past, and an argu-ment can be made that such is not all bad.  But as I was looking at a photo well over 100-years old of a young man resplendent in what looks like the uniform of a pre-World War I Polish Cavalry office who no one could identify I smiled deeply realizing as we turned the page that he would always be there, leaning on his sabre, beaming his pride, for as long as that album survived.

I turn on electric lights, warm food in a microwave, drive a car, revel in good health, and enjoy so many benefits of progress that I cannot even recognize many of them for what they are.

I also understand how many of the old things, almost forgotten things, like a family photo album, enrich my life as well, barely appreciated until they are gone.