Friday Firesmith – Photo Finished

There was a small group of friends I had in High School, and right now, at this very moment, I know three are dead, one is insane, one is in Federal Prison, and I’ve lost track of two or three more. I have no photos of any of these people to prove they ever existed. There are a good half-dozen dogs I knew when I was a kid that are long gone, and I have no photos of them, either.

Cameras weren’t precision instruments when I was young. Photos didn’t always come out well. Some never came out at all. I didn’t even see a digital camera until the 1990’s. Now, you can get one out of a bubble gum machine.

I had no idea a friend of mine would be murdered in 1980. There’s no way to think it will happen to anyone, but it does happen. Car wrecks are fairly common. Cancer isn’t rare at our age. I wish I had taken more photos. I wish I had pictures of the friends I once had and the dogs I once love. I wish I had photos of some of the things I’ve seen and the places I’ve visited. But as far as photos go, the first thirty years of my life pretty much doesn’t exist, except in my mind, and the minds of other people, who are dying off, like dinosaurs on a planet that can no longer sustain them.

Don’t live your life taking photos of every second of every day, but don’t hesitate to record where you are, and who you are there with, and don’t wait until the moment is gone to wistfully wonder if your memory has it right, or if it’s just imagination.

There used to be a rope swing by the river, and for years we would go down to the Chattahoochee and swing high in the air, and land in the cool water below. There was an old wooden platform that we launched from, and if the right people got on at the right time, we could get seven or eight people on that rope. It was one of those ropes that was used to moor the tanker barges to the docks near Columbia Alabama and we were certain it would never break. One day, we were down at the river swinging as I heard a terrible cracking sound, and people were yelling. The tree had broken. It split in two and broke in the middle, and I was surprised to see the center was rotted out. No one was hurt, and that itself was a miracle, but the tree was gone, and before anyone thought to stop it, the rope tied to the piece of the broken tree floated away. It didn’t matter, because the County closed the landing in the early 80’s, and now nothing remains of the site of many fun-filled hours with people I grew up with decades ago.

Take pictures of your life. Take photos of dogs and people you love, and places that matter. One day, they will be all that’s left of a tree, a place, or a person, and you’ll wish you had more.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

14 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Photo Finished”

  1. And if you’ve got them, keep them. I had a drawer full of photos from the mid 70’s up until a short time before my apartment was robbed on South Beach in 1989. Hundreds of photos that were not organized or categorized, just spewed about in that drawer. In my haste to move out of the Violated Space, I figured “Oh fuck it, they’re only pictures” and left them. It’s my biggest single regret, I have nothing to show my 9 year old son what daddy looked like when I was young.

    • Paul, I very seriously doubt I’ll have anyone to leave what few I have to anyone, but then again, ten year ago you likely didn’t think you’d have a son to leave photos to, either. I wonder if they will be meaningless once I am gone.

  2. I collected family photos, growing up in the 60’s. I ended up with a collection of over 3000, including slides that my father took and old photos that my mother had. I even have a couple of 1910 era photos of my grandparents when they were young. About four years ago I finally digitized the collection when I downsized and moved to St. Augustine. Now they play in a loop on a digital frame, and I am always impressed with some new photo that I had forgotten.
    In Mike’s line of thought, I discovered a single photo of my dog “Blackie” who unexpected bonded strongly with 6 year old me and faithfully met me 2 blocks from home at the bus stop each and every day. I also discovered a photo of a dog I grew up with, “Peanuts”, who left home right after I went off to college never to be seen again, sort of like I did.
    YES, do take photos, but keep a copy of the best ones on a memory stick or some medium that you can keep. Don’t trust Facebook or other social media to keep them, like my kids do. Someday all those will be gone and you might be left without photos of your memories.

  3. I too, learned the hard way about taking photos. I used to duck out of photos, or turn my back. I had a very dear friend die very suddenly several years ago. To my horror, I discovered that the only photo of us together, my back is to the camera. From then on, I stand for photos. They may not always be good, but there I am.

    • Chick, I think you are very photogenic, but I am somewhat biased. I get what you’re saying. There are zero photos of me and a girl I dated in High School. She’s long dead, and I wish I had just one photo of the two of us together.

  4. Aha…sorting through and organizing boxes of old black and whites and coloured photos taken with early instamatic, colour slides, and 35 mm auto cameras…one of the jobs for my retirement that I have finally gotten around to the past couple of months, after years putting it off.
    I inherited some marvellous B and W pics from my parents collections, my paternal grandfather was a photographer by trade, so some quality photos among them of my Dad growing up with his 3 sisters. Also Dad was a keen amateur photographer, and I have photos of him taken during the war whilst he was in the Royal Navy.
    We have 3 children so I had a lot professionally copied, and documented them on the backs, so they can be passed on through the generations. One was of my mother born 24th Dec, 1919, taken at 3 months old, and one of my Dad aged about 6 months (dressed in a dress, as they were back then.)
    It is interesting to see looking at photos of both sets of grandparents and spotting likenesses passed on to our kids and grandkids.
    Some of me taken between 3 and 5, the age of our youngest granddaughter, I have had much pleasure in family members remarking how much alike we are….Maybe that’s just the kids appeasing the old lady lol.
    I used to make albums with hard prints of all our family holidays, so they are being left. When we are gone the kids can sort them out for themselves.
    Now there are a couple of thousand digital pics on computer to be culled and put onto flash drives, but that is for another day.

  5. We have hundreds and hundreds of prints & slides (no way to view them anymore). A few (very few) were labeled in now-unreadable pencil or 100 year-old ink. We don’t recognize anyone and we should have dumped them the last time we moved. The result is that we don’t take many pictures at all anymore.

  6. I’ve got 8 binders and a drawer full of photos taken by my grandparents(born1880&1890), other family members, and myself, but no one left to show them to.

  7. The physical photograph is an amazing thing, one we’ve taken for granted. I have old photo albums, but none recent. My last decade or more of photos are all digital. There are certainly a whole lot more than I would have taken on film, but I like to take good pictures and the more tries the better your chances. Digital storage costs next to nothing.

    Another question would be about this change in format, from physical to digital, and how that will play out. The next generation probably won’t have photo albums to sit down with their kids and look through like I remember from my youth. What will become of actual physical pictures even a generation further? Just a thought.

    • Scoakat, I wonder what will make digital photos obsolete. When will there be a time when our digital collections are ancient and no one cares about them anymore? what’s next? I wonder if I will live to see it.

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