Living in a digital world, it’s easier than ever to pick and choose which memories are worth your GB storage and which ones are deleted and tapped off into cyberspace. Which memories are worth saving and which ones aren’t. It’s easier than ever to hover your thumb over the little trashcan icon and press delete. But why do we do it? Why do we make the effort to take these photos, just to delete them down the road?
Ever since I was little I can remember my mom chasing me around with a camera. Whether it was a disposable, a DSLR, a digital point and shoot or an iPhone, she was constantly hounding my brother and I to pose for a picture. And while I scoffed and rolled my eyes at the time, making silly faces and sticking my tongue out, I couldn’t be happier that she is the way that she is. If my mom had actually walked away every time that I said “no” to taking a picture, I’d have little to no memories from my childhood. To be honest, looking back on all those pictures of me and my brother with our arms around each other, both with crazy eyes and goofy smiles, I’m glad my mom didn’t walk away. I’m glad she took the picture and fought us tooth and nail for a Christmas card picture every year. I’m glad I have those memories, even if they are a little sillier.
The thing is, you can never really have too many memories. There is no such thing as too many pictures, too many prints or too many shots taken to get the right one. Especially in the technological world that we live in, where taking one photo or taking fifty is really just about space on a memory card and isn’t going to leave you drowning in developed photos or wasting money on film. Although you might think that the picture you took of your dog on your bed the very first day you got your iPhone is garbage, keep it. I promise you won’t scoff when you stumble across that picture twenty years later, when the pink walls of your childhood bedroom have been painted over and the stuffed animals are long gone.
This year on Father’s Day, I took to the huge boxes filled with photos that are buried in my basement in hopes of finding an old picture of my dad and I to post on Facebook. I spent hours flicking through those boxes. I had found what I needed right away, but was held down there by the waves of nostalgia that washed right over me. Looking through those boxes was like going through a time machine. I had seen pictures of my parents when they were my age, pictures of my grandparents when they were my parent’s age, pictures of all my childhood pets, my house when it was first built and before it was remodeled. I saw pictures of my street before it had any houses on it at all, pictures of my backyard before us kids came along and begged for a swing set and pictures from the day my parents brought me home from the hospital and plopped me down on the old gray couch in the middle of this big, empty house. The same house I’m sitting in right now writing this article, the house I’ve called home for the last twenty-one years and the house that will always be my home, no matter where my parents might end up living once it’s just the two of them again. Flicking through that box was like watching lifetimes go by. It was like watching things I had never seen or wouldn’t remember, at my own pace and not fussing about all of the little life things that had happened in-between. It was like a movie.
A couple of weeks ago we started the venture of putting an in-ground pool in my backyard. Although this is something that’s been tossed around for close to fifteen years, and something that I, for one, was very excited about, it was a little bittersweet to see my childhood backyard torn up. In those last weeks, I found myself outside taking pictures from every angle of that yard. I took pictures of the big, ugly, above ground pool that my brother and I played in for so many years. I took pictures of the trees that have been there since my parents moved in in 1991 that had to be cut down to make room for the pool. I took pictures of everything, because I knew that one day I would want them. I would want to remember exactly what the backyard that I grew up playing freeze tag in looked like and exactly how far it had come since then.
I’m writing this piece for a petty reason, actually. The other day I was laying in bed, refusing to succumb to the idea of “morning” and scrolling through all of my old Instagram posts. I was thinking about deleting some because I’m getting close to that 1,000 post mark and thought that it seemed a little aggressive, the idea of having posted 1,000 of my pictures on social media for everyone to see. As I was scrolling through my feed trying to pick out a photo for me to delete, I couldn’t. Although some of the posts are seriously embarrassing, poorly edited and have minimal likes—I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it because every single post was a memory that I was sure I wanted to keep. It was something that, at the time, I felt was worth savoring. And that was enough for me. It was enough for me to give up and think, what’s so bad about having a lot of pictures? And it was enough for me to think, nothing. There’s absolutely no reason for me to try to hide the fact that I take a lot of pictures and feel that a lot of these little parts of my life are things I want to remember and share.
Now I might be a little biased on the subject here, being a photography minor and totally camera obsessed since middle school. But it really doesn’t take much for it to make perfect sense. This past semester, on the very first day of a photo class the professor turns to us and says “cropping is a sin and we never delete photos form our cameras.” I thought she was crazy...never deleting pictures? Wasn’t that the reason so many people switched from film to digital? As it turns out, there are tons of reasons why that transition happened. There are so many perks to shooting digital, but deleting unintentional or blurry or unflattering photos is certainly not one of them.
When you think about it logically, there isn’t ever really a good reason to delete a photograph. Is it because you don’t look your best? You blinked? You look fat? You have eight chins? What does it matter! If you’re looking back in ten years, you’ll just think “wow I look good now,” or “yeah, that was really not a good look for me, maybe I won’t try bangs again.” There’s no harm in keeping not so flattering pictures of yourself either, that’s that fun of it! No one says you have to put these pictures on Instagram or make it your profile picture. And I promise they’ll be a lot less embarrassing a few years down the road (I know this because my mom the camera fiend, took plenty of pictures of me during my terrible, awkward, middle school years.)
Part of the beauty in using disposable cameras or film cameras is that you don’t get to see the shots you take until they’re developed. You don’t get to pick and choose which pictures and memories get to stay and which ones go because there is no deleting. There’s no editing and no photoshopping out the ketchup stain on your shirt or the green thing in your teeth, it’s just real life. Of course I’ve spent my fair share of time perfectly positioning things for an Instagram, but as it turns out, the photos you have of raw, real life are the ones that will mean the most a few years down the road. Chances are that if you thought the photo was worth taking in the first place, it’s a memory that’s worth being saved.
So I’m saying to you, with an Instagram account well on it’s way to 1,000 posts, take the pictures. Save all the pictures because one day, they’ll be worth much more to you than the storage on your iPhone.