Last week I mentioned that I started a Project 365. (You can read more about that here.) Well, one of the things that means is that I have a ton of photos to download every day. One day as I was importing another hundred images, it hit me. I have probably taken over 10,000 photos over the last year and a half and how many do I have hanging on my wall? None! And it wasn’t until I looked around my house and realized that there were virtually no photos of Elizabeth (okay, there is one in her room, but who is going to see that?) that I realized how important the printed copy truly is.
After meditating on this for a while, I’ve come to realize that, even in this digital age, print can still be relevant to our lives. Maybe I’m a tad old fashioned, but here are some of the reasons I think we need to value print.
One of my favorite family stories is of my Grandma Colavito and her cousin Filomena. My Grandma’s parents came from Italy in the 1910s and they left behind a bunch of family. (Actually the story is very interesting and involves a ship wreck and a missed boat… Come over, have a cup of tea, and I’ll tell it to you some time.) It wasn’t until she was in her late 70s that Grandma started to connect with her cousins who still lived back in Italy. She finally organized a trip to go back and meet her cousin, Filomena. When she walked into Filomena’s house, do you know what was the first thing she saw? A photograph on the mantle of her own brother, Carmine, when he was a baby.
Every time Grandma would tell that story, I’d get goosebumps! These two women had never met. They were related, but barely knew each other. They didn’t even speak the same language! But because of that print they had an instant connection and something to talk about. Grandma and Filomena kept in contact until my Grandma died in 2011. In 2013, my mom and all of her siblings made the trip to Italy to that tiny little town in the mountains and got to meet Filomena and her son. That photo was still there and you can bet they still had a lot to talk about!
You know that app that shows you your memories on Facebook? I love that thing. I love seeing how much I’ve changed over the past ten or so years and seeing what I was doing each day. It brings to mind so many wonderful memories (and also a bunch of embarrassing ones!). Photographs do the same thing.
One of the first items we bought when we moved into our first apartment was a set of frames to put our wedding photos in. It took me about six months of staring at the empty frames to actually print out the photos, but what a huge difference it made once I did! Our apartment didn’t feel sterile and dorm-like any more, it felt like a home. There were photos of us on the walls! They were right by the front door and were the last thing you’d see when leaving the apartment. Every time I would leave for work, I was reminded of what and who I would be coming home to at the end of the day.
Now that we’re in our new house, we’ve put that same collection of wedding images on the wall. But we’ve also added a few. In Elizabeth’s room we have a photo her in the hospital the day after she was born. It’s one of my all-time favorites and every time I see it I remember exactly how I felt when it was taken. I remember the joy and the love and the exhaustion of that day each time I walk into her room. Those moments are the ones I want to remember, and the print helps me to do that.
As I mentioned above, my Grandma Colavito passed away in 2011. But do you know what? I can still remember her apartment and most of the photos that hung on her walls. I remember the one of my Great Great Grandma Cerrone, the one of her first four (or was it five?) children that I always thought made them look like cherubs, the one of her parents on their wedding day, and the one of her and her brothers taken when she was a toddler. There were countless others on coffee tables and bookshelves. Five years later, I still see those images, but in a different place. They’re hanging on the walls of my parents’, aunts’, and uncles’ homes. Some of them were passed down to my grandma, and now they’ve been passed down again.
There’s something about an heirloom that I just adore. It’s the constant reminder of having known someone. So many of the things we consider to be keepsakes are fragile or worth too much to be seen and enjoyed every day. But that’s not the case with prints! A high quality printed image in a nice frame doesn’t cost that much, is easy to obtain, and can be enjoyed every single day. That is one of the things that makes them so valuable!
I know it’s tempting in the world we live in to hoard up our photos on our computers, hard drives, and in the cloud. It’s just so easy to put them there for safe keeping and then forget about them. We recently decided to add a gallery wall on our stairs. Sure, it’s a work in progress (I’ve been purchasing frames one by one for months), but at least it is started.
My challenge to you is to do the same. Think about the images you’ve stored, go through them, find the ones you truly adore and print them. Hang them on your walls, make an album, or bring one with you to work. Sure, it might take a little bit more effort, but you’ll be able to see those treasured moments on a daily basis and share them with others. You never know what conversations or connections they might spark!