There is a saying
“A photo can speak a thousand words”
I’ve never really appreciated the sentiment behind those words, until now. A couple of weeks ago I dragged out my huge box of photos. Hundreds of memories just piled into a box. I realised that I had been so careless with my memories. There were photos that were torn, some were frayed around the edges; some were even missing. In my hands I was holding some of my most cherished memories: holidays as a child, my first holiday on my own with friends, sixth-form ball, reunions with friends. Then there were the recent photos: my wedding, photos of my children taking their first steps. However, I realised that I had made an error in keeping these photos. There was a common theme, these photos all represented what I obviously regarded as important events. There was a distinct lack of photos from the everyday. I then realised that I had been doing it all wrong. I had been keeping and taking photos based on some misguided hierarchy. A hierarchy that meant I only took pictures of what I felt were important events, or that meant I only kept photos that were from an important day or event. Yet as life has progressed, as I have lost more people in life, I realised that I was fundamentally wrong. I was wrong to place one photo over another. I was wrong to take the everyday for granted.
I originally wrote this post a couple of weeks ago. Then last Thursday I found out that my parents had been burgled. My Mum’s first fear was that they might have taken or destroyed family photos. However, it seems that even burglars understand the importance of photos. They had almost been respectful as my Mum discovered they had carefully moved photos aside. Although they weren’t as respectful in rifling through drawers, their hands removing family heirlooms. They stole my Grandma’s wedding ring- the only thing that my Dad has to remember his Mum by. Now stolen, now in the wrong hands, with the wrong family. He didn’t care about anything else, he just wanted that ring back, his last and only connection to his Mum, my Grandma. This got me thinking again about the importance of photos. Now that I have lost loved ones, I find myself yearning for photos of them from the everyday. I realise that I have no actual photos of my grandparents. I remember that my Grandma used to be always sat in the kitchen, without fail we would find her in the kitchen in her favourite seat. I took it for granted that she would always be there in her seat, I took it for granted that I would always remember her sat there in her seat. Now I find myself worrying that I will forget her, that I will forget the small details of her life. How she always held a handkerchief, how she always gave us Smarties when it was time to leave, how on her wall she had a plate that said “If Mum and Dad say no ask Grandma”. I want to remember the small details, I want to remember the mundane.
As I get older, as I lose people I love, I realise the importance of the everyday. I realise the importance of savouring the mundane. Time doesn’t stand still, but with a camera we can go back in time. I wish that I had a photo of my Grandma in her kitchen. A photo would allow me to do that. Taking photos allows us to grab onto the fleeting. Taking photos allows us to hold onto loved ones. We all live such busy lives, dashing from one place to another. Rushing to get jobs done. Taking a photo forces us to slow down. There is an argument that taking a photo means that you aren’t living in the moment. I disagree, I believe that taking a photo, forcing your eye on one tiny aspect of your life means that you notice everything. It connects us to our surroundings, it enables us to notice everything in intimate detail. You notice the smaller things. The important things. It allows us to see the beauty in the everyday.
It’s time to embrace the everyday. To appreciate the power of photographing the mundane. By taking photos we are able to really savour life. From now on I will be changing how I take photos. I will be taking more photos of my everyday life, photos of my loved ones. There will be no hierarchy when it comes to keeping photos. There should be no hierarchy when it comes to memories. Every memory is important and makes us who we are. One thing I need to think about is a better way to store my memories. They deserve much more than a dusty box under my bed.
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