I take a million photos like the rest of us and often I wonder what really is the point after the momentary pleasure of sharing them? What do we do with our digital photos ultimately? We may blog or pin them or perhaps print one or two out occasionally, but after that they often fade into the Instagram sunset or fall into the archives on our blog. Thankfully there are ways to keep your memories front and center. Have you thought to make a few photo books? It may sound a bit grandma to even say that in this digital age but I often wonder what we’re leaving behind. When my grandmother passed away before I relocated from the US to Germany in 2009, the first thing my mother said was that I should take something to remember her by. Do you know what I took? Her photo album.
Why a photo album? Not only for the photos but for the memories I have looking at them as we’d talk and eat in the living room or crammed into my grandparents kitchen around the table. I remember excitedly looking at their albums as grandma whipped up something homemade in the kitchen, breads and sauces that filled the air and made our mouths water. She’d pop in between stirs to tell us a little tale pointing to a photo or to simply sit beside me as the oven made magic asking if I knew who this or that person was and to always add how young she once was or that she wished she still had her red hair minus the grays. I looked at the same albums over and over again, seeing the same photos, hearing the same stories, yet the comfort and coziness of those moments were some of the best times that I spent with my grandparents growing up. My grandfather would sit in his designated chair with his own stories and often, he’d drag out another album and still another until dinner was ready. This started when I was very young and way into my late twenties. Now they are gone but the moment I take out their photo album with the retro floral cover, I am transported back to times when my little heart yearned to be all grown up and to have memories of my own to share with my family.
I guess photo album browsing in my generation was the equivalent of families sitting around today with their iPads and phones texting and browsing photos in their digital albums. Or is it? I feel so disconnected lately when friends I’m dining with pull out their phones to text or take a non-urgent call when we’re together. I feel worse when I was in the states recently and spotted entire families out to dinner using their phones while ignoring one another. And it’s not just an American thing, manners are dying everywhere and I am saddened when sending a tweet or text is more important than connecting with those seated before us. Where are the conversations going, the ones I had as a child with my family, and what are they being replaced with?
It seems more and more are living inside of their own heads and locked away in their own digital playgrounds versus dealing with the reality of what’s around them. Don’t you agree? On our phones for instance, we can ignore a text or reply when we’re ready to have that conversation or worse, pretend to be fine when we’re angry, disconnect when things feel uncomfortable, walk away when fed up, ignore people, it’s entirely possible to pull the plug on anyone at anytime online and then say later that we got busy or pulled away from our phone or computer. In real life, our conversations flow and the back-and-forth exchange is a bit like a game of tennis, questions are asked, answers are given, eye contact is made, a touch on the arm, a warm endearing gaze… You lose all of that completely when your interactions are mostly online. When seated in my grandparents living room, I had to answer their questions immediately – even the uncomfortable ones. I had to sit through their long explanations that would sometimes leave me rolling my eyes. I couldn’t put my iPhone down and text them back later (so to speak), when I may have ‘felt’ like it. I digress…
This brings me back to photo albums and the digital age in general – what will we leave behind? How can we have the best of both worlds? When I die someday and my grandchildren ask what they want that belonged to me, will they ask for my external hard drive so they can see my photos? Or my iPhone or iPad? Will they ask for anything at all that will connect them to me and me to them in that very special way? Will they remember the conversations we had, the food I cooked, the time we spent on nature walks or will in the way that I can connect with my grandparents in a deeply emotional manner the moment I pick up their photo album? Will they ask to see granny’s blog called decor8? In fact, this was ultimately what gave me the final push to write a book so I could have something tangible to leave behind. For me, having a blog and having a book IS the best of both worlds. How do you balance both – how are you making the best of both worlds in your life?
With that, I want to tell you about something in print (I know, oh my gosh, PRINT) that I think is just awesome because it encourages children and parents to create, interact and share their digital photos in a meaningful way that involves something called real human contact around a kitchen table or on the sofa. The creation of a physical photo album. These albums are by Paislee Press and I just love them. The formats are fresh and inspiring and I like that you can introduce children to layout and design through them at a young age because you can involve them in the making process digitally (which kids love) BUT they can see it and hold it in PRINT (which I love) afterwards. Then you have the best of both worlds and you are usually digital technology in the way I feel it should be used – to further connect and inspire us not to isolate and separate us which is sadly happening all too often.
What are your thoughts on all of this, anyway? It’s a bit deep for a Monday morning but important to think about because I am consistently seeking ways to find balance online and wonder how you are doing with this so feel free to share… Maybe something you say may spark an idea in those reading your comment.
(images: paislee press)