When we were little, my Mother always bought the annual school photo.
You know the ones. Where Mother carefully brushed your hair, teased it back into something resembling neat, washed your face, dressed you in a perfectly ironed uniform and said silent prayers that the photos would be taken before you had spilled the contents of your lunchbox or carton of milk down yourself.
Our photographs lined the beautifully painted woodchip wallpaper going up the stairs in matching wooden frames. The higher you went up the stairs, the older we got.
The hair had gone just slightly crazy and we seemed to wear a new wonky smile every year.
I suppose a lot of people would have found them embarrassing, particularly at the tweeny age, but I always kind of liked them.
I liked the fact that Mum liked them, which it’s why it’s strange that I’ve never been tempted to buy a school photograph ever.
Let me explain:
Family photographs are something most of us take and treasure. Some are funny, some are bittersweet. Some are fascinating, others are just plain embarrassing. But would we want to stop taking them? Would we ever throw them away? Absolutely not.
If you ask a lot of people what possessions they would miss the most if they lost them, photographs come high up the list.
Photographs are important to us.
From newly published photographs on Instagram to the faded ones in frames on the walls and the ones safely stowed away in storage. They have the innate ability to poke at our memories, linking us to moments gone and recapturing our imaginations.
Here are ten reasons why your photos matter.
They are a record of our lives
From the day we’re born, our families started taking photographs of us and they never really stop.
We take more photographs today than ever before. When I was a child, photographs were generally reserved for special people and special days. The main events. The celebrations we shared with our families, but now, we take photographs of everything and everyone on an almost daily basis and we post them online for the world to see.
It’s like a photographic diary. The popularity of photographic sharing sites like Instagram have only facilitated this further. This doesn’t diminish their significance though.
We don’t just keep them online either. It’s cheaper than ever before to print out multiple copies for ourselves and other family members.
Our photographs are a record of all the things we have done. The places we’ve lived, the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met and known.
Our memories fade. It’s impossible for every memory to live on forever, but photographs capture them in ways that nothing else can. The looks on faces, the feelings at particular moments and our lives at specific points in time.
Photographs document our story through a lens, providing us with beautiful memories to look back on throughout our lives.
They remind us of shared experiences
Family life doesn’t always run smoothly. Friendships don’t always run smoothly and sometimes we need to heal a rift or two. People also sometimes just naturally drift apart and it’s good to reconnect.
Years ago, back when I left home, my husband and I shared a house with some friends. We were all between 19 and 23 and it was so much fun. We all grew up, moved away and moved on.
Flicking through old photographs, it’s truly amazing the tiny details that come flooding back.
Barbeques in the back garden, swimming trips, nights out. Thing’s I’d completely forgotten about.
Photographs can be the perfect ice-breaker for long lost friends rediscovered or people we’ve fallen out with.
They remind us of times we have shared together and the people we used to be. It can be an ideal way of getting relationships back on track.
In most cases, even if it comes down to laughing at old clothes and hairstyles, photographs make it impossible to stay silent for long.
They allow us to record events
Photographs allow us to create a permanent record of history as it happens. We sometimes find ourselves taking photographs, not just of family milestones, but of historically significant points in time.
Who can remember where they were when…………happened?
A photograph can.
I have photographs of when the Olympic torch came through our town in 2012. I have friends who took the most amazing photographs of themselves in Windsor, just as the Royal Wedding carriage went past carrying Prince Harry and Meghan Markle earlier this year.
I also have old photographs of my husband’s Father as a baby during World War 2, standing outside with his mother waiting to receive rations.
Photographs help us mark out points in time. History as it was made.
They capture fashions, technology and how we live
It’s not just historically significant events that are important. Photographs are a fascinating look back at the past. The cars we drive, the clothes we wear, our hairstyles. They all change from one decade to the next.
Think your parents looked funny in 1970’s bell-bottoms trousers? Yep. That’s what your grand kids will think of your skinny jeans!
Look back at your own photos from when you were little. Vintage prams and toys. How quickly do things change? Compare them to your own children’s things now.
Who would have guessed 12 year olds would be walking around with iphones? Who would have guessed anyone would have been walking around with an iphone?
Fashions and technology move on so unbelievably quickly and your photographs record them perfectly for future generations to discover.
They connect us to our ancestors
I have a huge box upstairs, safely tucked away with photographs of people with familiar faces. Not people I’ve ever met, but their faces are familiar nonetheless.
They remind me of my family now. The same sparkly eyes, noses and cheeky grins. It’s amazing what we seem to inherit. My son is his grandfather at that age.
Black, white and sepia. Some beautifully preserved. Some faded by the sun. Some wrinkled in the corners or written on the back. All precious.
These are the only connections I have to the people in my family who have gone before. A link to my ancestry.
The smart phone photos that we take now are no less important.
Whilst many of us now treasure boxes of old family photographs, it would be nice to think that future generations would feel the same way about the ones that we take of our families now.
Taking family photos and preserving these memories helps us to learn about and feel connected to our roots.
They help others to remember us
How do you want to be remembered? Chances are, one day, your photographs will be something your children and grandchildren cherish. Something to look back on and remember their childhoods. Happy times.
Photographs are what we leave behind. They help to trigger memories, not just of the moment captured, but so many more memories of the people within.
They are a powerful way of not just capturing how you looked, but the way you smelled, the way you spoke, the way you laughed. The mind is a funny thing.
Photographs of our childhoods and family situations are like pieces of a puzzle. One day our families can use them to build up a clearer picture of who we are.
They give us precious memories of our loved ones
Most of us at some point have to go through the pain of losing a loved one, and again, for most of us it will be the hardest thing in the world. When someone we love is no longer with us, our memories of them become even more precious. It’s so easy for memories to fade.
Family photographs matter more than ever when we can no longer see someone we treasure. By looking back at the happy times we have shared, we can keep them in our hearts and minds forever, and this can help us to carry on.
They tend to make us feel good
When was the last time you took a photograph because you were unhappy? Because something had gone dreadfully wrong, or you had seen something terrible happen?
You don’t (usually).
Yes, funeral photography is actually a thing, and yes, people purposefully capture crimes on camera, but it’s not a daily occurrence. We definitely don’t go out of our way to capture our most miserable moments.
Most photographs tend to be taken to capture happy events and times. We take them because we know we’ll want to look back on them, or because the image is something important that we should remember.
We want them to take us back and make us feel happy again.
This is one of my favourite reasons to take photographs. Just like music, photographs are a universal language.
Everyone can understand a photograph, whether it’s of a bride on her wedding day or that first new-born kiss, there’s no need to explain. The empathetic part of our brain just seems to understand.
One look at a photograph and you know what it’s all about.
They allow us to be creative
Lastly, experimenting with photography is fun and gives you a chance to let your creative side run free.
Photographs tell a story. Your story. Any story you want them to.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw or paint, anyone can pick up a smart phone or camera. No, you’re not going to turn into Steve McCurry overnight and no, you’re not going to get the same results as a professional photographer. I’m guessing you don’t have a few thousand lying around for a camera and the lenses? But it doesn’t really matter right?
Whether you’re just trying to capture as many photos as you can on a night out with your friends, or getting a little more serious with props, a DSLR and an editing programme, photographs give us all a chance to take and treasure every moment.
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