The balance between capturing memories and living in the moment
By Patricia Baer
As I was putting my house back in order after a week of holiday celebrations and house guests, I realized with some disappointment that I had not taken very many photos this year. I was slightly annoyed with myself for not taking a group picture of the next generation of our family, which tends to be in the form of that traditional staged scene of kids planted together on a couch.
These photos, no matter from whose family, are always an entertaining reflection of both the children’s personalities and whatever emotions they are experiencing in the moment the scene is captured.
Without context, though, a person could mistake one for the other. This leads to one of my favorite uses for pictures, the prompting of storytelling that goes along with opening a family photo album. In itself a picture may be worth a thousand words, but it often elicits a thousand more from someone who was there at the time of the shot.
Whether it is an explanation of how the photo came into existence or general reminiscing about the subjects time-frozen in the print, there is usually something additional that can be expressed beyond the image.
On my to-do list of “this would be cool but I will never have time for it” projects is to pull together my photos from over the years and write short blurbs for them, adding contextualization from my recollection before it becomes lost to the fuzziness of aging. These depictions of my life, however, have huge holes.
My two years in Atlanta would be virtually non-existent, not for lack of things worth remembering but because my life was so gleefully hectic with theatrical projects during those years. I was busy experiencing my life, and it did not occur to me to stop and record any of it.
I have a kind of love-hate relationship with personal photos for this reason. People can become obsessed with recording the perfect shot or capturing the appropriate facial expression from their subjects that they lose the memory of the moment itself. Occasionally, the photos betray personal memories.
We all process our experiences individually, and what we hone in on to memorialize may distort or blur other details. What may have been remembered as a red boat at a summer cabin may be revealed to be blue in family photos, causing the viewer to question what other cherished details of that vacation were incorrectly stored in his or her memory.
I guess that is why, while I regret not having more photos from this year’s Christmas, it is only a slight disappointment because I know it means we were too busy having fun enjoying our time together and creating actual memories instead of just recording a moment in time when we were all sitting on a sofa.