Down in Florida last month, I began to organize my parents’ 6 bins of photographs, the earliest of which reached back into the 1880s. Aside from being an invaluable record of my family history, the trove also provides, upstream, a fractal of the entire era of mass manual photography. No vintage filters, just IRL vintage frozen time.
Film was a limited resource then, and care was taken, even by the most casual photographer, to frame and compose even the most throwaway shots (mostly). There was also tremendous lag time – sometimes years lol – between the shooting and developing of a roll of film. With no easy way to share photos in the Kodachrome era, save for giving away, or developing copies to hand off or mail, most of the photos I leafed through hadn’t been looked at in a while. I felt the archeological thrill (and import) of re-discovery, for sure.
My parents’ archive (mercifully, in a way), stopped right around the mid-2000s, when pretty much all day-to-day photography went digital. Unlike today’s weightless piles of e-photos, the sheer weight of the bins is correlative with the amount of time they cover. Over a pound per year, on average, I can estimate, given how often I needed to move the archive to a spare bedroom from the garage and back to alternately organize the collection and make room for guests.
In the last bin I opened, I found an envelope packed with my paternal grandfather’s photos. Most of them, I’d never seen. A few were pre-1900 shots of my great-great and great-great-great grandparents. There were enough shots of my grandfather, Morris, and my grandmother, Ida, to lay out the entire arc of their relationship. These two here are the earliest (1941) and latest (2011) photos I found of them. Pretty sure the latter pic is the last photo we have of Ida, who passed away later that year.
This “paper” photo from 2011 is a printout of a picture from Morris’ lo-res Razr flip-phone camera. There’s a hint of irony in how if not for the printing, this photo wouldn’t exist. Morris’ phone is long lost to the ether, with who-knows-how-many other photos of his and Ida’s life at their last home at an assisted living facility in north Jersey.
70 years is quite an eye blink. Just a shutter click, really.