Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Photos, Photos Everywhere

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

Memories and photographs, that’s what’s on my mind this morning. I was feeding the guinea pig and thinking back to Brownie, my childhood guinea pig. In my childhood scrapbook, which I looked through recently, I found one picture of myself and Brownie. He looked like I remember, and I was fairly fascinated by my 1970s outfit, but did I need this photo, or any photo, of Brownie to remember him? No, I don’t think so, yet my children have dozens of photos of Thorn, Blackberry, and Corky, the guinea pigs who have lived with us. These photos are trapped on my computer, but we have them.
In fact, I have hundreds of photos on my computer, perhaps thousands, and virtually haven’t printed one in the past 9 years. I might post them one or two on Facebook or my (now defunct) family blog, but that’s it. Otherwise, they’re tucked into organized folders and left to sit in cyberspace. I also own an electronic photo frame. I’ve had it for more than 2 years. I bought three of them – one for my in-laws, one for my brother- and sister-in-law and one for myself. Ironically, I’m the only one who’s never used it.
I see parents at every event I go to filming or photographing their darlings, recording their ever silliness / talent / participation in literally anything – playing at the park, skating, violin recitals, sporting events, sitting around reading. One of my friends actually photographed the first poop that her darling landed in the baby potty! Besides the fact that my children’s generation must be the most photographed in all history, what is going on? Parents aren’t really experiencing the event; they’re too worried about angle, light, framing, and that other cursed parent whose head keeps getting in the way. And what about the children? Are we telling them that their every move is so precious, so fabulous, so unique and special that it must be recorded for all time? Or are we telling them that their performance / activity / sporting event is so boring that we, the parent, can’t enjoy it unless we’re actually doing something else: that is, obsessing on the perfect shot?
Even though I sometimes feel like a neglectful parent, I’ve stopped taking my camera to most events.
Recently my husband has been working on transferring all our old video tapes from film cassettes to CDs. One thing I learned is that no snippet of film should go more than a minute and that no one wants to see the entire length of a child’s birthday party again, no matter how fun it was the first time. (Suddenly I’m reminded of watching a video tape with some proud grandparents – three full minutes of their precious going back and forth, back and forth in a swing. B-o-r-i-n-g.)
Also, why is it that every special and unique event is documented, but rarely is the mundane - making dinner, our co-workers and neighbors, working in the yard? I once read that if you judged people’s lives by their photo albums, you would think that life was one birthday party and holiday celebration after another. As it turns out, some of the older photos that have become the most valuable to me are the ones that show my house and my clutter before remodeling and before decluttering. I would not have intentionally photographed these less desirable things, but in contrast, today I find them interesting and affirming. Isn’t it ironic that one of the views I most value now is one that I was actually trying to avoid recording?
My memory is good; my life is rich and full. Documenting every aspect of it isn’t going to make it more fun, more full, or more enjoyable. One or two photos is plenty. After that, I’m going to let my mind do the remembering and keep my computer, drawers, and cabinets uncluttered.

Today’s Declutter Item

This are the kind of useful item I have the hardest time decluttering. The fact of the matter is that I have three of them and these days I rarely use one, so I am confident to add this on to the donation pile. I will decide on the fate of the other two as time goes by.

Plastic Tray

Something I Am Grateful For Today

I am grateful for all the wonderful items that once served me well but that I have now donated to charity over the last eighteen months. Sometimes in the past when I found something useful I would tend to stock up on more of them than I really needed. I am also grateful to have learned my lesson in this department and hope to never fall back into that behaviour in the future.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. I’m with you in marveling at our obsession with documenting every event. I recently have stopped feeling the need to document everything with photos. I now give myself permission to just enjoy an event as a guest, without having to “work” the event as photographer. It is much more fun living life without having to worry whether I’m sufficiently documenting it. A photo once in a while is nice, but I don’t need hundreds. And I really like what you’re saying about photos of everyday life events versus those showing one party after another.

  2. Oh Cindy. How I agree with you. I am a scrapbooker yet I too can’t see the reason to scrapbook every event that happens, etc. I’m also not into chronological scrapbooking. I scrapbook meaningful times and relationships. I have a friend who scrapbooks every event that happens in her life. Even repeated events. If she goes to a scrapbook crop she takes pictures and scraps them. Even when she goes to them once a month. I, on the other hand, will scrap a few pictures that represent what a crop is like (I don’t go to them) and that will be it for life. I scrap the life changes and relationships of life. Once a year I will do a sort of “Week in the life” to show what everyday life is like in that year. I have lots of pictures on my computer. One of my decluttering goals is to go through them and print the ones I want to scrapbook and dump the others.

    • A “week in the life.” I LOVE that idea. Sounds like it could be really fun and valuable.

      Scrapping photos taken at a photo scrap? That was almost too confusing for me to figure out!

      • Yes, she goes to a scrapbooking crop to scrap a bunch of photos of who knows what and then takes pictures of everyone scrapping.

  3. What is your husband using to transfer film cassettes to CDs? I would like to transfer ours, with some intense editing first. Thanks! Lisa

  4. but wait until the kids are 30 and you dont remember so well. Trust me a few photos can really help. However as an aside, you will never ever need a photo of anyone’s poop.

    • I agree that some photos can help your memory and are fun, but I saw a parent take 20 or so the other day at the roller rink – all of their one child going ’round and ’round. That’s excessive. (And I agree. No one needs a poop photo.)

  5. I agree – today everything has to be documented, it doesn’t matter if it’s important or not, it just have to be documented.

    It is less hassle afterwards, without having to worry about sorting through tons of photo’s.

    • It’s pre-editing, Nurchamiel. You decide in advance if an event even needs to be photographed, and then you don’t have to sort the photos afterwards.

  6. I agree with you, but it may be because I don’t enjoy looking through pictures anyway. Some folks really get a lot of enjoyment from it.

    Not me, though 🙂

    • Recently a group of friends and I brought our wedding albums together. We all had too many photos. The bride with each bridesmaid, each parent, each sibling, this group of friends, that group of friends. It was all too much. One photo I don’t have, though, and regret is one of the buffet table at our wedding. The food was delicious and so pretty too. One of each of the key elements is probably plenty.

  7. I’m so glad to have kindered spirits here! I just went overseas for 24 days (two new US cities, and a whole new country), and I took about 100 photos. I didn’t take my battery charger, so that way I was sparing with when I took a photo! And it meant less editting, shorter upload to facebook! EASY! And I’ve also decided not to scrap book this and the past trip. I no longer ‘feel’ it, even though the past ones are tresured by myself and others.

    • I’m glad that your past scrapbooks are treasured. The ones we have are looked at less than once a year. It’s kind of a disappointment.

  8. I take a lot of photos and videos. Too much, but I am getting better. I especially like video taping the kids when they don’t notice it. I don’t do it for myself but to share with our family living overseas and for my children. At least, they get a glance of what our life is. My kids also love to see – and hear – themselves younger. One of my favorite videos is when they were 2 and 3, at home, sitting at their little table, drawing. I taped them for 5-10 minutes talking, laughing, drawing, communicating. Priceless. I don’t care much about school events and parties. I love spontaneity.

  9. the Other Lynn

    I have this same fight with groups who want their events videotaped. Usually it’s some great speaker who will speak such great truths that we will want to show it to everyone and watch it over and over again. Thing is, that’s rarely the case. It’s a waste of my time as the one videoing the event AND as the editor who has to edit it together to burn them to dvd for sale. I wish more people would acknowledge what you state so well!! Granted, that’s usually my only source of income for the month, so I can’t complain too much!! : )

    • I wonder if anyone ever looks back at videos from conferences, etc. Heck, I even wonder if people look back on the handouts they receive at conferences.

  10. I totally agree Cindy. I used to be the family photographer, and was often the only one of my friends to bring a camera to every event. I’d spend hours and $$ making copies for everyone (in pre-digital times).

    In the last year I’ve decluttered my photos from around 3,000 down to around 500 and believe me, I don’t remember a single one I tossed. Most of them were blurry, duplicates, or very similar shots. I’m only left with the meaningful, precious, fun ones 🙂 I don’t need 5 of my children making almost the exact same face; one will suffice!

    My next job is to make physical photo books of each year of digital photos I have (2002-2010) through Snapfish. I’ve already uploaded all the photos (urgh, so time-consuming, but worth it!) so now is the fun part of choosing the best ones. I bought an external hard drive to back up the computer too, takes only minutes, but it’s an added security measure.

    • This is a pretty embarassing confession, but about a year ago, I organized an extended family photo for the first time since in the 80s. They’re available to me online, and I still haven’t selected or ordered one.

  11. I agree with this too. I think I got tired of scrapbooking not because I didn’t enjoy the craft but because there were so many photos to sort through for each occasion that I felt my brain would fry. I have not even looked at the photos of our last trip overseas because I am happy to remember it in my mind. Besides, I enjoy the odd little experiences that mostly happen in an instant, unexpectedly that aren’t captured by the camera anyway.

    I am sure it seems to people at times like they are experiencing most occasions through the lens of a camera. On the other had sometimes there are no photos of an event to look back on and that seems like a shame as well. In the end I think the best use of photos is for history sake but what good is that if we don’t identify the event in the photos before filing them away out of sight out of mind.

  12. Whilst I don’t disagree with anything said here and I almost certainly have too many photos, the other side of the coin, certainly when kids are small, is that our memories don’t really start from ourselves as babies. Few people remember much from before they were 4. And so photos can help fill in that gap. My parents took hardly any photos of us kids, special events or mundane day-to-day stuff and so I don’t really know much about what I looked like, holidays we took etc. That part of my life is a lot of a blank and that’s a shame.

    I do print a lot of our photos into albums for the kids and they love to look through them. I can definitely see myself taking less and less photos as the years go by but, for the moment, it fits where we are.

    • As long as it’s working for you. My cousin recently ordered hundreds of photos from Snapfish. Literally, it was a SIX POUND box of photos, and her child is only 3. That’s simply too many.

  13. Cindy,
    One of the reasons I HATE going to most of my kids’ events is that the other parents are like seagulls after their ONE fish with their recording devices (like in that NEMO movie, ‘mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine…’). It drives me completely insane all the little things parents have to record on video and photograph. Most of the time on our travels either myself or my husband completely forget the camera. Once he had it and I needed it and we were in two completely different places. One time we took vacation photos (Italy) of which my daughter accidently erased the first half of the week of photos; then I managed to accidently erase the second half of the week of photos. LOL!!!

    Gotta laugh ALOT and appreciate the NOW! Thanks for this post, for me you hit the target right in the middle!

  14. Oh my goodness, and the part about ‘photographing the poop’???? WHAT???????

    Did she get it ‘bronzed’ and set in on the living room mantel, too??? Can you just imagine finding a bronzed poop at the thrift store for sale that someone else ‘decluttered’? Ok, enough, I won’t quit my day job (wait, I don’t have one!).

    • That’s HYSTERICAL Annabelle, but still don’t quit your day job. (Or get one, and then don’t quit it. : )

  15. Personally, I would love to have a camera. I haven’t had one for at least a decade, which means that a decade of my sons’ lives was undocumented. I thought that my parents took *no* photos of me because we were poor, but it turns out that they were trapped in the format of slides. When I started scanning the slides (all that I’ve scanned are on the Internet), I found that my childhood was well-documented, just in an unfriendly format. At my first wedding, my brother photographed every relative who attended. It was a tedious at the time, but now that most of them are long gone, it’s wonderful to have the photos. Here are some of my favorites:

    • Hi Jude,
      I really enjoyed your photos on flickr. They reminded me of the colour slides nights we had when we were children. Terry was quite the photographer and it seems to run in the family, there is some nice composition among those photos, not just snap shots.

  16. Cindy,
    I just went through about 3,000 to 4,000 loose photographs looking for pictures of my husband’s father. He passed away last Friday and my mother in law wanted pictures for the visitation. I would have to say that the best pictures were the ones that were NOT of birthdays and Christmases – those are just boring. Who wants to watch Mom before her shower opening up some gift?

    I do like the fact that I have bunches from when the kids were little to go through and sort, because I have a bad memory and I like to see how cute they were. And we took pictures ALL the time when they were in their first year, not just at events.

    My husband just bought me a new Canon point and shoot digital camera and I am having lots of fun taking beautiful close up shots of my pets. And those are really precious, but I only keep the really good ones. I also took quite a few pics at the funeral earlier this week and have them saved for when my husband is ready to look at them.

    But…I am dreading trying to figure out how to organize the thousands of photos that I have and whether or not to scan them in to the computer or just stick them in albums (I used to scrapbook but it got way too expensive and time consuming). And I am sure I could cut it down by at least half, if not by 3/4. After all, a couple really good pics say it so much better than 100 of the kid going round and round the roller rink!



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