Our photos are the trophies of our lives

For years my mother had old photos of myself and other family members and friends thumbtacked to a corkboard in her kitchen. When I moved my mother out of her home a few years ago I had to remove these up to 40-year-old photos that were now faded and yellow and had multiple tiny holes in them from the repeated thumbtacking. If one didn’t know better you might have thought that I and my other family members were victims of some terrible voodoo ritual. Maybe Mom did have some unresolved feelings, but more likely they just kept falling down.

Thumbtacked me

Her refrigerator also had an array of photos held up by magnets and clips, and scattered around the house were framed photos of all sizes on walls and dressers and bookcases.

Growing up in that home, I saw my life in these prints. Every day I lived there and for all the years after when I visited, these photos became imprinted in me as part of the story of my life just through the sheer repetition of their viewing. I had a relationship with those photos and it made me feel good to see them.

When you go to your doctor’s office, you always see (or at least hopefully) all the doctor’s degrees and awards and other things that tell you how good and experienced they are.

If you walk into the office of a successful person, aside from their awards and plaques, you will probably see photos on the wall of them with other important people, usually more important than them like a president or movie star. And of course they will also have photos of their family smiling and looking like the family of a successful person.

My fridge

These things are not only there to show to other people, they are there to make the person feel good about their own life. We all do it, we surround ourselves with photos of the things and people in our lives that we love. We put up our trophies and photos of us receiving awards and diplomas. They are there to remind of our successes and achievements. They can inspire gratitude and pride and also pick us up when we may forget those things.

My bookcase

Looking around the other day I noticed that many of the prints around our house were all older photos, most of them pre-dating iPhones. A major part of our recent life and the events from them were poorly represented in the gallery of our home. Was I just lazy or had I just gotten out of the habit?

Probably a bit of both I suppose, but my viewing habits definitely have changed. Like most others, I am now interacting with my photos almost entirely on a digital platform. For years, even after I had converted from film to shooting digital, I had made prints of much of what I shot, to look at, to share with others, and to place on the fridge or bookcase in a frame. But once iPhones really took hold, I stopped doing that and relied on my ubiquitous electronic companion for not only shooting my family photos, but for viewing and sharing them as well.

I am trying to change that. I am shooting more family photos with an actual camera, which I love. We are digging out all the frames we have received over the years as gifts and putting new photos in them. We are even dedicating a new wall to just family photos.

If we had kept going the way we were, my son might have thought we had stopped caring about him at around age eight. Now he will get to see himself growing up when he walks into the living room, or the bedroom and hallways, or past the fridge. Definitively the fridge!