Sunday, 23 August 2009

Recording Life

20th century had an explosion in the mechanisms for ordinary folk to record their lives - the sepia studio photos of our grandparents (with running trophies, with siblings in white dresses with wide black sashes, wedding photos of the bride and groom); 8mm film of funny family events (funny smiling people running round in strange environments, dark colours, oddly flat); photograph albums (poorly labeled square photos with white edges, scratched, curling - mum as a child swimming in a pond wearing a woollen swimsuit, young dad leaning proudly leaning against his first car - reportedly dark and light green with chrome, or standing next to his plane in the navy, granny as a girl with long hair in ribbons, babies from all over the family, graduation pictures, yellowing and fading photos from the 70s - slightly too short flares and fake fur jackets); slides (dreaded grandad slide shows of a variety of badly-composed groups of relatives on their trips to South Africa, interspersed with pictures of the local flora, grandfather in his shorts safari suit, aunties and uncles with their feet, head or half the group chopped off the edge of the frame). This was the heyday of capturing the family's history. There are still enthusiasts from whom you can pick up a slide projector to see the old stuff. The photograph albums are tangible weighty tomes dragged out for viewing together, old stories oft told entering into the folklore of family.

Now everything is digital, throw-away, kept on the computer. I'm worried that we will loose a mass of social history because we don't back up our data well enough, or we hate all the images and trash them, or the computer busts and we loose it all, or the media will become obsolete and therefore un-accessible. I forget how nice photograph albums are.

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