B&H Blog Posts
All blog posts presented here were written by me for B&H's InSights! blog, under the pseudonym, Megan Iverson. Click on a blog post title to be taken to the post on the B&H Website.
By Megan Iverson
In my parent's house are boxes of family photos stored in closets, cupboards, and desks. The pictures are loose, in albums, and some still in the sleeves they came back from the photomat in. From time to time when I still lived at home I'd pull the boxes out and sort through all the memories of my childhood, and from the years before I was born: photos of my parents when they were dating, their childhoods, their parents and their childhoods. A visual family history. Some might call this clutter - but I prefer to think of these boxes as tangible memories.
For the past several months my mother has been calling me at least once a week to get my opinion on which digital camera she should buy. You see, up until a few days ago she never owned one. My mother has stuck to film more steadfastly than I have. But with children living in far off cities, and I'm sure other societal pressures (all her friends have one), she's been wanting to go digital - you know, for emailing and such. Which I totally understand - and it's something I do myself. (Let me just state now that I think digital can be a great tool to keep in touch, etc.)
Anyway, now that her hot pink Sony Cybershot has arrived I fear that the era of the handheld photo may have just come to an end in my parent's house. With glee my mother announced all the exciting aspects of her new camera on the phone the other day - the screen size, it's eye catching color, and the little travel pouch she bought for it. I've been told it's very cute - and it matches the camera. She's also delighted that it can fit in her purse.
Now, while I think digital and point and shoots have their place (yes, I own one), even social media to a certain extent, this recent event has me wondering about all those boxes of pictures I used to love to riffle through on the living room floor. What's more, it causes me to remember the times I spent looking at pictures with people I loved.
One frequent event that comes to mind was when my grandmother and I used to look through her photo albums from when she was young. Those experiences were more than just picture viewing - they were memories themselves. Us sitting at the kitchen table together, my grandmother going through each square photo taken by her Brownie, telling me the story behind each picture, each person, while we looked through the albums she so loving put together as a young woman. I'm not so sure looking at photos on a laptop or a cellphone could ever quite recreate that, no matter how well designed a website might be.
So, I've been pondering what will happen to our collective future memories - I mean, if let's say, people forget to back up their images and don't print them out? What's more - what will happen to the photo labs? I suppose that's a story for another time, though.
I know everyone intends to print out those digital photos, and sometimes people even buy that cute little photo printer to go with their new camera, but often times the digital files never leave the hard drive. Years may go by and before you know it.... poof! Family vacations, weddings, and countless birthday parties are all sucked up into the ether. Lost, never to be found again because either a computer died and the photos were never backed up, or formats and/or media changed and you never switched. Or, you just plain forgot where you put the files. Tragedy.
Perhaps I'm not as afraid of this probable future as I am saddened by it. Not that I don't appreciate an email of photos from my mother - and not that I don't send them myself - but, there is something to be said for a picture you can hold in your hand. And there's something to be said for picking up the pack of 24 glossy prints from the drug store photo counter. How many times have you stood right at the counter looking through the prints, or in your car in the parking lot - smiling and laughing or crying? It's a real experience - a tangible one. An act that's been played out over and over again - but these days less and less. There's anticipation and reward, and a few moments where you're unplugged from technology - simply enjoying what the photos hold. You quite literally have your life in your hands. And if you're lucky enough, you might even get to share those moments with someone you love.
All I have to say in closing is this: Mom, while I love the emails, please don't forget to make prints.
By Megan Iverson
On a shelf above my desk sits an enormous binder full of 35mm slides, neatly stored in sleeves. These slides aren’t my work though. And it isn’t the work of anyone I know.
I came into possession of the binder some time last year. A co-worker of mine had decided to venture out on his own to follow a dream that involved photography, South America, and Eco-tourism. Arriving at work the day after his departure I noticed the binder, which I had always assumed to be his work, still sitting on his desk. Worried that his slides would be lost forever, tossed away and destroyed, I snatched up the binder for safe keeping.
I have a hard enough time throwing my own work out, even when it belongs in the trash, so I couldn’t watch what was obviously someone’s massive cache of images be tossed. I promptly emailed my former co-worker and told him I’d saved the binder and would deliver it to him safely. I was feeling proud of my good deed, yet wondering why on earth he would have forgotten something so important.
Later in the day another co-worker came up to me and said, “I see you’ve inherited the binder”. Curious as to the somewhat whimsical nature of said co-worker’s comment I raised an eyebrow and replied with something like, “Well, I’m holding onto to it for so and so….” With a giggle my comrade went on to explain that the binder wasn’t our departed co-worker’s slides at all – but that he had found it on the street, and “saved” it from certain doom. Needless to say I felt somewhat deflated in my mission.
Later when the departed co-worker emailed back he explained that he had tracked down the owner of the slide binder when he had found it (which wasn’t too hard since his name was stamped on the back of each slide – a fact I would have discovered had I actually opened the binder) who informed my former co-worker that he didn’t want the slides back – and to, THROW THE BINDER OUT!
The departed co-worker and I both mused over this instruction to throw all that work out. Even if this photographer didn’t want his slides back, there was just something in us that couldn’t toss the hundreds and hundreds of images. That being said, the departed co-worker knew that leaving the slides on his desk would probably equal doom for the work, but at least gone he wouldn't have to see it happen.
I should take a moment for a disclaimer here. Since leaving college some years ago I made a promise to myself to no longer be a pack rat. Interesting boxes from things I'd buy, papers, books, and discarded photos I’d find on the street all made their way into my life during those years – and many other things as well. "Dumpster Diving" was considered a fun past time by me and several of my friends and roommates. In fact, we pretty much furnished our apartment that way. The thing was - we could never throw anything out, or return anything to the garbage that we weren't going to use, for other dumpster divers to seize upon. My issue with.... collecting shall we say, didn't start in college though, which anyone who saw my childhood bedroom can attest to. As much as I value repurposing things there is a point where you need to be selective.
So, here I was: to keep the unwanted binder or dump it? Since no one wanted it, even its creator, I knew it didn’t matter if I threw it out. And in all truth it’d probably be healthier for me if I did, with my no-clutter pact and all. Yet, more than a year later it still sits on my shelf. I haven’t even looked at the slides much past the first couple of pages which consist of early ‘90s models, some interiors, and product shots… not the most exciting stuff.
So what’s my problem? Why I can’t I toss this guy’s slides? It’s not that I’ve fallen in love with these images and must have them in my life. The binder’s too big for a paper weight, and truthfully, it takes up a lot of room on my shelf. So, what’s my deal? I guess I just can’t bear to destroy somebody else’s work. And, old habits die hard. But if anyone else out there finds themselves having a similar issue, or can shed some light on this quirk of mine, I'd like to hear some theories.