When I was a child, I loved flipping through the pages of my mum’s photo albums to look at family photos.
To get a glimpse into my parents’ lives when they were younger was absolutely magical. I would sit with them, or sometimes my grandmother, and ask them to tell me the stories behind those black and white memories.
I would listen wide-eyed at their tales, laugh along with them as they reminisced about the funny incident behind a particular picture. Their sadness would touch me when they showed me a much loved family member who was no more.
The bonding was absolutely beautiful, and it helped me understand the history of my own family through visual memories. As an adult, I still love flipping through those pages of family photos.
The sepia and black and white gradually turns to colour as I see pictures of when I was a baby, child, teenager, young adult. Nostalgia floods me, bringing, in turns, tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.
Now, I love showing my two little boys these memories. As it was when I was a child sitting with my mother and grandmother, listening to their stories of the past, my children listen to my own narratives of the not-so-distant past. They look amazed as they see their mummy as a baby, their grandparents as young parents, and their eyes in our eyes.
We don’t do this anymore, do we?
The beauty of a simple black and white family photo speaks a million words. | Image: Remembering Lee Kuan Yew Facebook page
What has happened to our family photos?
Through modern technology that has seemingly unlimited memory, we are able to capture snap after snap of every moment of our days.
Sometimes, these are just mundane, even meaningless. We take them for the sake of Instagram or Facebook.
Other times, they are priceless. Baby’s first steps, or a child’s proud moment receiving an award.
Because we believe that technology will never fail us, it’s safe to say that many of us rarely print these precious family photos. We are happy to save them in our phones, create virtual albums on social media. We think that’s enough. But is it really? I think not.
As it is, mobile devices are stealing our family time. They turn out kids into little zombies staring at those screens with blank faces, and we adults are only just a little better.
We automatically check our phones countless times a day. We sometimes don’t even look up from them when our kids ask us a question. Mindlessly, we swipe through photos and ‘like’ them. Sometimes, we don’t even know whose photo we’re liking. It all gets meaningless.
Now, compare this to the incredibly interactive bonding process of gathering around a family photo album with loved ones.
An electronic album cannot replace the bonding that flipping through the pages of a family album provides.
A trip down memory lane…
For one, each memory captured there is priceless. The cameras that snapped these pictures did not have unlimited memory or storage. The photographer usually had to choose from just 12 or 24 precious moments. And so, these were carefully selected, snapped and preserved.
There were no filters back then. Every moment you see in that family photo album is real. Only unfiltered memories are there to transport you back in time. It’s the beauty of a simple black and white photograph that speaks a thousand words.
Then, there’s the issue of losing phone photos altogether. When we don’t print those pictures, they are vulnerable to technology failures.
With one tiny glitch, years of memories can easily be wiped out, unlike those preserved in the pages of a physical album.
Even if you don’t lose digital images to a tech issue, there’s always the danger of them getting lost in cyberspace. Why? Simply because you don’t think of revisiting old photo ‘albums’ the same way you do the real thing.
So mums and dads, start printing those family photos. Put them up on your walls and place them in real albums.
Don’t let those memories disappear in the black hole that is cyberspace. Your photo memories cherished in physical albums may fade in colour over time, but they will never disappear from your life.
Print those family photos, gather your children around you on a Sunday afternoon and reminisce with them.
See their faces light up and get animated in a way they never will staring at a phone screen. Someday when you are older, you will repeat this ritual with your children who are now young adults.
They will marvel at their baby faces, and you will feel half-happy, half-sad at the memories that are brought to life through those pages.
One day when you are gone, your grandchildren and great grandchildren will gather around these albums in the same way. And even though you might physically be no more, you will be there – in muted colours and powerful memories that will never get lost.
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