Why do we take photos?
This has got be one of the most simplest questions to answer and it boils down to one word: memories.
We take photos to capture moments in time, so that we can look back at some point in the future and remember things like what people looked like, places we had been or feats we had accomplished. There is a joke that I often say (and I am sure that many other people have said the same thing) that if you don't have a photo then it didn't happen. Photos are our validation of "look, I did that, I've been there".
Photos can document a life. For parents, they can capture their babies first smile all the way up to when they are grown and ready to leave the house. I envy the children of this generation in a way - these days almost everyone has a camera on hand in the form of their smart phone, ready to capture a memorable moment, so when these children grow up they will be able to look back and see so much of their life before their eyes (if they ever get printed off instead of hidden away on a hard drive that is - the down side of the digital age).
"...photos capture moments in time, but most important of all our relationships with our loved ones..."
But most important of all, photos capture the special relationships we hold with our loved ones. Like I said before, whether it be your babies first smile or a groom's first look at the bride on his wedding day, photos taken at the right moment can not only capture a moment in time but the FEELINGS of that moment. And that is a beautiful thing - to look at a photo and remember the joy you felt at that time and to feel it again, or the love you feel for someone. And lastly, these same photos of our loved ones can, in the end, be one of the few things left that we have to remember them by once they are gone, something that I have discovered very recently.
Last year I lost my Nanna. She was the last of my grandparents still living and we used to joke that she would live forever as she always seemed so strong. But it turns out that the cancer she had had a few years ago returned and before we knew it we were being told that she was gone. The last few months have been spent organising her things - keeping anything of significance to us or selling what we don't need. And while the pain of her loss has lessened, these little reminders of her as we deal with her effects still bring a twinge of sadness.
One of the things that we discovered as we went through her things were her photos. These precious memories of those who were important to her. Going through them I found one of the two of us - when I was about 7 years old. And this is what was heartbreaking - as far as I know, this is the last time a photo was taken of the two of us. Over 25 years ago was the last time my Nanna and I had a photo together. Oh I have more recent photos of her - the last one I ever took of her was her with her beloved great granddaughter, my niece, but none of the two of us together. And this is the down side of being the one behind the camera: I have plenty of photos of my loved ones - very few of myself.
And this is why I firmly believe that GETTING photos - not taking them, but having ones taken of you - are not just a luxury. It's great having photos of all your loved ones, but you are a part of their lives too, and if you have children, or grandchildren or even close friends, you want them to be able to look over these old photos and remember not only these moments but remember YOU. Make yourself put down the camera sometimes, and either ask someone else to take a photo of you or, if you don't want any one to be excluded, hire a professional every once in a while to, as I always say, capture the connection between you and your loved ones. You may wonder if it's worth splurging on getting a professional, but it is certainly something you will cherish in the future making it money well spent.
Photos will never be a substitute for the real thing - not in a life time. A photo won't tell me what my Nanna's hugs felt like, the way she smelt or the way she sounded when she would great me with "hello lovey" in that strong Yorkshire accent of hers. However I know that over time these memories will fade, but as long as I have a photo of her I can remember not only what she looked like but be reminded by seeing the way she looked at me in those photos and the joy in her face how much she loved me.
THAT is why photos are so important.