One of my favorite childhood memories is my mom taking me to Walmart to get our film developed. We would go to the photo department and drop off our film canisters, and then shop around the store for an hour until our images were ready to be picked up. It was like magic when we traded our last name for envelopes full of stacks of photos. We never waited until we got home to open them, and I can’t explain the thrill of flipping through the pictures right there as I leaned over the shopping cart. I am thankful for so many things my parents did for me and my brothers growing up, but the amount of photos they took and printed has to be up there with what I am most thankful for. My mom treated our camera like a sixth member of our family that we never went anywhere without, and she made sure to catch every moment. My dad always got incredible shots.
Now, we have around 30 shoeboxes filled with those photos, and more floating around in albums and frames. I can’t count the number of times I have carried all of the boxes into my bedroom where I’ve surrounded myself with piles of photos on the floor for hours on end, admiring the memories. And every time I have done this, in every different bedroom over the years and at every stage of life, looking at those photos is what makes me feel at home, even when everything around me changes.
In fifth grade, my mom and I picked out an Olympus digital camera for my dad’s birthday present, which is kind of a joke in my family because it only really belonged to him for the first five minutes after he unwrapped it. I was obsessed with the camera and took it everywhere with me. My mom’s film Kodak broke on a school field trip to a corn maze that she chaperoned for me in second grade, and our film Nikon stopped getting as much love. Now that things were digital in my family, Walmart’s one hour photo developing trips became a thing of the past. Since we could upload all of our photos to the computer, the hard drive became our shoe box. We only printed when we needed to.
Fast forward to present day. We are the generation of the iPhone, the goPRO, and digital cameras altogether. Advances in technology are amazing…but I’m scared. I’m scared of losing the shoebox generation. I want my kids to grow up laying on their bedroom floors laughing, crying and reminiscing on old photos like I did. And I don’t want my own memories to exist strictly in the digital realm post fifth grade. People are certainly taking more photos now than ever before, but those photos are living in hard drives and clouds. They are disappearing from walls, photo albums, and shoeboxes! I ask myself, am I overthinking this? Does it even matter?
Something happened in fall of 2016 that reminded me how important a physical photograph is. As we all know, polaroid cameras are making a comeback courtesy of FujiFilm in pastel colors, some even equipped with selfie mirrors. I was waiting in line at Hands On Art Studio in Door County with my mom, and a group of little kids came running into the front desk area. One of the girls had a yellow polaroid camera in her hand and I watched as she responded to the curious expression of her friend by saying, “It’s called a polaroid! It’s this cool new thing where you take a picture and it comes out of the top! There’s not even a screen!” The kids were beaming with excitement over this “new” invention, and couldn’t wait to take a photo and then hold it in their hands. I can’t explain how much it warmed my heart to watch that moment. That these kids were experiencing the excitement and suspense of setting up a photo you couldn’t delete, and then getting whatever was given after the shutter closed. Pictures matter. Yes, physical photographs matter. The magic I felt as a kid buried in those shoeboxes wasn’t a feeling unique to myself. Photos are magic for everyone.
Capturing memories for people is one is one of my life’s greatest purposes, and so will be encouraging you to PRINT YOUR PHOTOS! I believe the ways of the past and the present can coexist. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take 50 pictures on my phone every day, most that I don’t do anything with. My recommendation is this: don’t rely on your cell phone to be the only device that captures your memories. Don’t keep your images in the atmosphere. Buy a small mirrorless camera you can keep in your bag wherever you go. Make the time to get quality, printable, frame worthy photos taken of yourself, your family and your loved ones. Invest in a professional! They will provide you with quality photos that your great, great grandchildren will be thankful you had taken.
So what are your options for printing? There are many great online labs that you can upload your digital files to, giving you a plethora of options for prints and products to get as creative as you want with turning your files into tangible products. Nations Photo Lab is a user friendly website that offers everything from albums to prints to mugs to coffee table books, and more. If you are a photographer and are searching for a lab to work with for creating your client products, White House Custom Color will work closely with you to perfect your color calibration, and provide you with top notch products and samples so you can grow your business. And when it comes time to store your prints, Hanging Branch offers custom engraved photography packaging on beautiful handmade wooden boxes.
In this day and age, all it takes is forgetting to back up your phone one day and then dropping it into a toilet the next to lose it all.
I’ve never seen 30 shoeboxes get flushed down the toilet, have you? Ha, ha.
When you peak into the bedroom of your kids giggling at a photo, arguing about who the naked baby in the bath tub is, or you show your grandmother with dementia images from her past that light up her eyes like you haven’t seen in years, or when you are feeling lonely, nostalgic, or lost in this life, and you notice the shoebox under your bed at just the right moment, you will understand why.