Clinging to Photographs

A monarch butterfly graces a butterfly bush in my garden

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”  Dorothea Lange

I have no idea what to do with old photographs.  I have ones of my mother when she was young, of my own youth, of my children, of travels, of holidays, and of nature in its beauty. I have photographs of sports teams, friends, weddings…and I could easily go on.  The problem is that I can’t bear to throw out the images.  I feel like I am throwing away precious memories and mementos and, worse, a bit of the connection between the person in the picture and me.  How warped is that?

So what do I do with the photographs?  Most of the them are stuffed haphazardly in boxes and shoved in the back of closets.  Others are in albums made decades ago.  A few are framed or posted on the refrigerator.  The ones from recent years are stored on my phone and computer, and a small subset of them appear on my screensaver.  That is it!  Hundreds of pictures, (a thousand?) many of them lovely, have remained unseen for years, for decades.  What is the point of that?!

I suppose that in the future, when I need to downsize, someone helping me will just dump the pictures into the trash.  I probably wouldn’t notice that they were gone.   Or maybe the opposite will happen, and I’ll look through them as a tired old woman, with little to do and much to reminisce about.  Simon and Garfunkel sung, “Preserve your photographs.  They’re all that’s left you.” (“Old Friends”).  I hope that there is always more in my life – more friends, family, relationships, and events — than my memories.

 All of those old photographs sitting undisturbed, all of those memories…For now, I’ll let them be.

6 thoughts on “Clinging to Photographs

  1. For Christmas a few years back, I purchased some decorative boxes and prepared a box of photos for each of my grown children as a stocking bonus under the tree. They had the best time reminiscing on their holiday visit to celebrate the season, and went home with some lovely memories. I love that you raised this question – maybe others will have some ideas for ways to actually use the scads of vintage photographs from before the digital age.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve chosen the same path of letting them be; however, I have found my grandchildren are intrigued by the old photos and glimpses of the past….so I guess there is a reason for them to be…for now….

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  3. Maybe, in a way, the old photos are like the old memories. We hold onto them for as long as possible, forget some of them until a reminder of some sort comes along, and if we lose them along the way it is ok, we will make more but it’s nice to know we have them! I love your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My mother-in-law uncovered loads of old photos and went through them during this past year of isolation. She’d send us pictures of photos she thought we’d enjoy. Ironic, no? And we did. We walked down memory lane with her, and the photos prompted stories from my husband. Lovely new memories created with old photos.

    Liked by 1 person

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