Has Facebook killed the family photo?


I keep my family in a box. Some of them are babies, others elderly people. Every now and then I let them out and we travel together, a magical journey through time. Just yesterday we danced together through the decades. The dead ones came to life once more, and the living ones were transported back to their youth. My box of family photos is more than a dusty collection of old paper.

Remembering the 'booboo bin'

This box gives me more than my half a dozen years of Facebook photos could ever do. Printed photos were more considered than the endless selfies we see now. You had to aim the shot carefully, capture everyone smiling (or, intriguingly, engaged in some long-forgotten task) and then wait. It could take months for the film to be developed, and even then you’d be looking back with fondness at the recent past. The photos would then go into a box. Now, everyone seems to keep their own personal online archives, so there's no communal online "box".

But there in this box are my great grandparents, my grandparents and my parents, living once more. Posed in the lace, tweed, formal outfits they wore as children and then growing up. I watch them with their friends, having holidays, skiing, at the beach with their sunburned legs revealing that they were going to catch the sun, even if it meant a night of pain – that’s what you did, back then.

Then I watch them growing older, less active but I can see the sparkle of light in their eyes as they enjoy having family around.

I see myself as a child, playing with a tractor, drawing in crayon (totally naked) or holding up a present under the Christmas tree. First day of school pictures see my skinny knees stretching their way through the 70s and 80s. I stand between my brothers like pillars in a graph, one is shorter and one taller.

Still awkward, I can see I’m a man. I have a beer on the table in front of me, and my parents are chatting to me about what’s going on. I’ve left home.

There’s a gap for a bit, but then my children appear, little squinting things on blankets. A flurry of pictures of them teetering around the garden, their faces smeared with food. I smile at how round they become before they start to grow. They’re doing the same things my brothers and I did when we were kids, pulling faces and funny poses for the camera.

I look at the last photos of my parents. Their eyes seem to look back at their memories. I wonder if they’re surprised to be old, if they still imagine themselves as fit and energetic. Did my dad think of the glory days on the rugby field? Was my mum thinking back to the time she first wore a mini skirt in the 60s?

I pack up the photos. Back in the box goes my family.

And I am grateful for this; that I can see whole lives (or snapshots of them) played out before me. I think I will print some photos out for my kids to look though one day. I shall add to my family in the box.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Do you still print out photographs?

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