“Was the world black and white when you were a kid?” asked my young son after seeing my childhood photos. All our early family photos were black and white (with very tiny subjects) until Polaroid introduced Polacolor, an instant color film camera, in 1963. The film for instant photos was relatively more expensive (and many of the pictures didn’t “turn out”), so color photos were still few and far between.
In the throes of this deep, dark winter in which we are being buried in snow, I’ve looked around and thought this current world is somewhat black and white, at the very least silver tone. As Christmas lights go dark, the color has drained out of our landscape in Mazama into a silver tone photo, except on those currently rare blue-sky days. The description of silver tone in digital photography is “a warm filter that provides high contrast and strong retention of detail except within the darkest shadows.” At least it’s a “warm” filter!
Preserving memories in living color has come a long way from the Polaroid and disposal camera prints. For the past few years, one of my January projects has been creating a photobook of the highlights of the previous year. It’s a good thing to do while watching the snow come down and a feel-good project to distill the hundreds of phone pictures into those that tell the best story of the year. Photobooks always beg the question about who will care about them in the end.
I knew a couple many years ago who traveled the world. All their trips were captured in those old-school photo albums where the pictures stuck to the pages and the colors faded yellow. Every photo, whether good or bad, was preserved. There were so many albums that they had a special room with bookshelves built all around to store the hundreds of albums.
In time, both folks passed on and their two adult sons were left with the question of what to do with their parents’ photo albums. There was no interest in their content by anyone in the family. The trips and the memories were not theirs and all that history was just that — gone. Boxes of those albums are most likely holed up in storage somewhere, or maybe buried in some long covered-over landfill.
The vision of that room filled with abandoned memories has been a constant reminder to keep the yearly photobooks slim and colorful with interesting commentary in hopes that they will provide some amusement and interest to my progeny.
In the meantime, each day the hours of daylight inch forward. Before we know it, color will pop up everywhere. I can’t wait to see the first purple crocus of spring.