A little over 10 years ago I bought my first digital camera. It was a pretty crappy camera, even by the standards of the day, and it also doubled as a webcam. For 2 years my Logitech Quickcam was my companion, and all of my digital camera “firsts” came with it (i.e. first picture of my friends, first pictures of my new car, etc…). Recently I started looking at some of those old photos and realized that at the time I thought taking a picture at every moment was a great idea. In retrospect, I should have been more careful with my memory maker.
About 6 months after I got my camera, I had it handy one night when a friend of mine visited. My friend had just come from an argument and was badly in need of support. After we talked for a bit, and the mood lightened up a bit, I snapped a couple of photos. Those were the first digital photos I have of this friend, whom I’m still close with today. I recently came across them and thought “Hmm, I should send this photo” before I recalled the events that led that person to my table that night. Now I don’t know if my friend would remember that night, and I certainly don’t want to be the person to revive a painful memory (This is why this post has some vague wording), so for now I can only look at the photo and remember that time in our lives in the broader spectrum.
The point of this cautionary tale is that today we all have our cameras with us at any moment. We snap photos without much thought, and photos can hold more powerful memories than narratives have ever been able to. Next time you’re thinking of making a memory, perhaps wonder what that day might evoke years from now if you should revisit it. I suspect this is why we often don’t see people taking photographs at a funeral!