If you would, imagine this scenario with me…
It’s 30 years from now. Your children are grown and having children of their own, and as you are spending an afternoon together, one of your kids mentions that your newest grandchild looks just like their mother when she was that age. You think to yourself, “yes, and I have just the photo to prove it!” You begin to rack your brain, wondering its whereabouts. Is it on that old laptop that crashed years ago? Is it on one of your countless flash drives buried in boxes and junk drawers? Is it on the cloud-based storage that you haven’t been able to log into for years? Is it on an old floppy disc or CD – a format that you have no way to access on your current computer? You can’t remember for the life of you… and the idea of searching is overwhelming. So you don’t. You smile at your granddaughter in agreement and the conversation moves on. You think to yourself that maybe the photo will find you someday… but it never does.
Now, imagine an alternate scenario…
…”yes, and I have just the photo to prove it!” You walk over to the bookshelf where you keep many of your photo boxes and albums of your family memories. Luckily, your photos are organized into dated boxes, and you know exactly which year to look for. You pull the cover off, flip through a few envelopes and find the one you were looking for. The photo gets passed around from person to person. It sparks conversation, laughter, memories and maybe even a few tears. Finding that photo took an average get-together and led to one of the happiest conversations you have had in a while. Your heart is full. The photo lives. And because the photo lives, the memory survives.
There are many reasons why millennials aren’t printing photos today. Back in the day, printing was the only option if you ever wanted to see your photos at all. Today, we have options. So. Many. Options. It’s amazing, overwhelming, and it can even be debilitating. We’re taking more photos than ever, and we have a plethora of ways to store them digitally. The problem is, we haven’t lived long enough in this digitized era to feel the repercussions of putting our full trust in this ever-evolving technological atmosphere. But if one thing is true in this very moment – millennials are the most photographed generation with the least physical photos to show for it.
The birth of a photo used to be simple. You took a photo and then you printed it. Two-step process. Today, we take photos, we share them online, we put them in clouds and on computers, CDs, flash drives, and external hard drives until we can’t keep track of where they all are anymore – but always with the intention to do something with them someday. But here’s the problem with “someday”. In the meantime, we’re forgetting where we’re putting our images. We’re storing them in a disorganized fashion on technology that will become obsolete, or the devices used to read said technology will become obsolete. What’s the difference though, really? Obsolete is obsolete. Even today, computers are now being made sans USB ports and disc drives. And while our image files are floating around, their quality is degrading and corrupting. So when “someday” was always the goal, someday you will realize you never printed any photos at all, and you may have lost the chance to. And while they were locked up on your devices, nobody else was able to enjoy them.
As hopeful, confident humans, we like to think we have control over everything. It’s easy to think we’re in full control of our technology, but the truth for the most part is that our technology is very much in control of us. Unless we’re proactive about preserving our memories, I fully believe that we will lose them somehow, some way, at some point. If your Instagram is your go-to for photo storage and re-living your memories – an app that could be shut down and taken away from us at any time – we have a pretty big problem on our hands.
(Side note – let me say that by all means, I am not anti-technology or encouraging you to throw all of your flash drives into the nearest trash can. Technology has saved the day for me on many occasions and in many instances. It’s an amazing resource we have that ought to be utilized, because well, house fires and floods happen. God forbid you face a tragedy like that – but those are the moments we will PRAISE the cloud. They always say, if your photos don’t exist in three places, they don’t exist at all.)
What is the moral of the story here?
It matters that our photos are accessible, because if they’re not accessible, they’re not available. And if they’re not available, then what was ever the point of taking them?
Sometimes I find myself thinking back to the root of this topic and why I care so much about it. Why DO we take photos? At any given moment, why are we drawn to press down on a button and freeze a moment of our life? While the answer seems simple, I think we’ve lost sight of the point of it all. In this instant, online age, we’ve forgotten why we capture life.
So here’s a reminder if you need it, and you probably do:
We don’t take photos for now. We take them for later. We don’t PRINT photos for now. We print them for later.
Say that to yourself a few times until it really sinks in. It’s something I’ll repeat in each blog of this series because it’s something that I think will change the way you view the photos you take from this point forward. The reason you feel that drive and intuition to capture a moment unfolding in front of you is because you want to REMEMBER your life.
Remember (verb): to be able to bring one’s mind an awareness of someone or something that one has seen, known or experienced in the past.
As fun and as entertaining as our instant, social media world can be, answer me this: did you really capture the moment your son took his first steps or your daughter graduated college so that the image could get 64 likes, 2 shares and circulate in 472 of your friends’ news feeds for approximately 24-48 hours to then be buried by the noise until you posted another life moment and the cycle would repeat itself? Our memories were never destined for this harsh, greedy online environment that sucks up our precious moments, spits them out and begs for more. They were never destined to be judged by strangers, but instead cherished by loved ones.
Friends, a well documented life that is accessible is a well remembered, celebrated and preserved life. Not just for us to enjoy, but for our loved ones and all those who come after us. We can’t share them with anyone if they remain on our devices for the rest of forever. I know the idea of printing these photos we are taking every day feels like just another job to do in our hectic lives. I am right there with you – as I type this, I have 4,346 images on my phone that I have done nothing with, and they would be gone forever if I dropped my phone into my dog’s water bowl. BUT – printing our photos is a job that is well WORTH our time and something we can all do better at. It’s something we will thank ourselves for, and our kids and grandkids will thank us for, whether we’re around to hear it or not.
When you peak into the bedroom where your grandkids are giggling at a photo, arguing about who the naked baby in the bath tub is, or you show your mother with dementia images from her past that light up her eyes like you haven’t seen in years, or your children are able to learn about their Grandfather’s life through photos because they never had the fortune to meet him on this Earth, you will understand why. Photos bridge the gap between our yesterdays and tomorrows, our ancestors and those to come. They tell our stories. They’re one of the most powerful gifts we’ve been given in life. We don’t print photos for now. We print them for later.
Thanks for reading! I’m so glad you’re here and I hope the wheels in your head are beginning to turn as you think about what prints have meant to you throughout your own life, and the current habits you might like to change regarding your storage of digital photos. Tune in each day this week as we dive even more into the importance of printing photos, resources for printing, tips on organizing files and a super exciting opportunity to challenge yourself in 2019 to make printing a consistent habit in your life. There is a huge surprise involved – but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out what it is!! Happy printing!
Still to come in the Print Your Photos series:
Tuesday: How Photos Carried Me Through Loss
Wednesday: From File to Photo – Ordering, Organizing and Displaying Your Prints
Thursday: Introducing the ATP Print Your Photos Challenge
Let’s start the conversation! Comment and let me know – what keeps you from printing these days? What are your qualms and questions? Have you been burned by relying too heavily on digital storage?