Monday, August 3, 2009

The journey of the Photo Album.

This one is about the most well-documented childhood of all time.

No, not mine. Though there is a picture album or two just dedicated to birthday parties, vacations, class pictures, school plays... one set each for my sister and me. You can trace the evolution of our lives through diaper days, poofy dresses with bows in our hair, awkward adolescence and the unfortunate fashion of the 80's, which spilled over to the 90's. And then somewhere down the line, the stock of pictures dwindle. Who is to say what happened to the bratty looking girls post-18? We must have stopped being cute, for one thing. And well, we grew up, for another. And there will always be time in the future to catch up on the lost years... and fill in the gaps between now and then. Right?


Well, coming back to the most well-documented childhood of all time. That would be my niece's. Oh wait, did I not mention that after growing up, my sister got married, moved to a different country, started a new life and then subsequently had a baby. My bad. See, all that information would have followed naturally had anyone kept the picture albums going... but now it's only a spurt of random pictures after another. Like a hiccup.

Anyway, Baby A is cute. And the center of everyone's eye. Everyone in the family that is. My sister took a picture on her cellphone of her 'taking a walk' in her stroller and sent it to me within seconds. I oohed and aahed, and showed off my niece to anyone around me. There are Flickr photo albums galore of that little girl. There are home videos being made as we speak. And she Skypes every weekend with grandma and grandpa across the world. All this before she can crawl.

Now, there were cameras when I was growing up. Sure. First there were black and white pictures that popped out of them. Then color. Then nothing - cos it all went digital. Then well, they came up with digital photo frames. And just the other day, at the mall, I saw a digital photo wallet thingy... replacing the old photo in the wallet trick with a whole album of the extended family. Up to a few hundred pictures, if I am not mistaken.

The pictures from my parents honeymoon days are mostly black and white. They had color back then but a lot of black and white too. They were small in size too... like a polaroid. And the edges were frilly-like.

My favorite picture is of my mother in Kashmir. It's black and white... though everything looks rather white because of the snow. She's wearing an oversized, black trenchcoat sort of thing... and smiling, well, half-smiling into the camera. Or rather at my father, who was taking the picture. It had been so cold that day that the guide who was taking my parents on a tour of the city offered his jacket to my mother to keep her warm. This demonstrated two things to me.
A). Locals don't feel cold. And
B). Chivalry wasn't dead 25 years ago.

But it's my favorite picture. Whether it's because of the story behind it, or because it was taken in a place I haven't been to, or because it was a snapshot of my parents, young and in love... I don't know.

My parents tell me that when they were growing up, taking pictures was an event. One you made appointments for, dressed up, and posed for, with your eyes deliberately looking elsewhere... for the effect of seriousness perhaps? Or gravity?

There are trunks of pictures in my grandparents home. Trunks. Some of people I have never met... who lived and died before me. Those are very few. Others are of people who have always been old, ever since I can remember. Looking at their pictures - when their hair is still dark and they have movie-star-like hairstyles is fascinating.

Taking pictures is not an event in Baby A's life. All she needs to do is smile and the flash goes off. I wouldn't be surprised if there are DVDs sold of her first few steps... she is THAT cute. And well, that's okay. This is how she will remember her childhood when she grows up. Just as I remember mine. Everyone needs props to facilitate 'remembering'. Pictures... and videos... will be ours.

Or videos with pictures. This is about Video Biographies, right? :)

1 comment:

Jerrie said...

Love this discussion of how photographs and taking photographs have changed. It says so much about our contemporary lifestyle where even snapshots have multiplied to the point that it's hard to have a favorite, there just so damned many of them.

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