My wife downloaded her ten thousandth app for her iPhone recently, something that makes pictures look like they were taken with an Instamatic. Here’s one shot of me wiping TH’s nose as she slobbers her way through a lemon lollipop.
The picture gives me a certain feeling, reminding me of our old family pictures—squares with rounded corners showing, in an orange grainy image, Christmas or some family gathering. Back when film was bought and developed (Lordy I’m old, you kids today ever heard of 110 film cartridges?) each picture had to mean something, so unless you were Scrooge McDuck and did the backstroke through doubloons, you took pictures at special events. As a result most old pictures are of holidays, large family gatherings. People are told to “look at the camera fer crissakes!” and precious is the old photo that captures an unscripted moment.
When I look through old photo albums (you kids today and your digital albums!) I notice what isn’t there: the pictures of sad faces, arguments, hijinks, moments of everyday life where the camera was unnoticed. I often want to peer into old pictures and see around the corner of the frame. What was happening around the subjects? What happened right before the picture was taken, or right after? Here’s one of my brother and I, paused in play by a parental dictate: “Boys, look at the camera! Smile!”
What did we go on to do after the camera left? Were we nice to each other that day or was there, most likely, some antagonizing, name-calling, retribution, détente, and resolution? Whose turn was it to ride on the pedal tractor? Did we like having matching shoes? Did I care about the Royal Guard peeking out of the guard shack on my overalls* or did I not even notice?
Today with my digital camera I try to take pictures before and after the formal picture, so I know how we acted normally, the looks we give each other, the everyday gyres of our lives. My favorite pictures are the candid ones, and the Instamatic shot of me wiping my daughter’s nose is just right.
*Yes, I see the possible double entendre here.