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I would spend a long time looking through photo albums as a child. It was fascinating having a book of full of my-parents-but-younger, like a bizarre time portal jammed between two leather covers. I’d look at our holidays, special occasions and family events – well, that and flick through the album purely to pull the plastic back and forth off the sticky strips on the pages. It’s impossible to know how our children will look at how we are now and if that could still be through the wonder of the photo album. However, I can’t help feeling that they may well miss out, and more worryingly still: are we missing out even now?
Further forwards in time, I was a thirteen year old who really wanted a Polaroid camera. Like, REALLY wanted, because they’re so cool and they have a place to write on and I can put the photos straight on my wall, mum! Of course, I didn’t get one, and once Christmas passed so did the urgency of those white-framed squares. If you revive any part of pre-2000 now, it seems like a fad. You’re a hipster, you’re trying too hard to be individual, you’re… well, who do you think you are?
To be quite frank, call me what you want. Having photos that aren’t selfies that you can also hold is near enough magical. It’s great being tagged in pictures from that night out on Friday, but you really won’t care about that in five years time. Instead, you may well still care about the time you went to Scotland and went skydiving. With photographs, it’s not for anyone else to say whether you’re trying to ‘be individual’ or whether actually, you just like physical copies because you prefer them. Much like I said my letter writing article in the previous issue, being tactile is a wonderful thing. Practicality is what you assume it to be, not necessarily because society says it is easier for you to stick an SD card in your laptop.
Sometimes it makes more sense to reach for a disposable camera rather than instagram. With holidays and festivals in particular, having a rectangle of £500 in your pockets for taking a picture is hard work and you lose a lot more than just your photographs if it becomes stolen or lost. A disposable camera on the other hand is thirty photos that are exactly that – disposable. It’s not as cost effective if you account for processing, yes, but you only capture one second of event without the other hundred and maybe ever-so-slightly better angled seconds around it.
Recently there has been a surge in the sale of vinyl records which says a lot about how society is turning back to the physical copy. Maybe the album design doesn’t matter to you, but for those of you that treat album art like a book cover you lose that nearly completely over iTunes. Okay, so a photograph itself doesn’t have a cover, but a photo album does. If you go a step further and try scrapbooking it becomes an art form in itself. It doesn’t even have to be artistic – it’s just something to have and to hold without praying that your back-up drive doesn’t crash on you.
The notion of the physical copy definitely isn’t for everyone, understandably. It takes time, money, and it’s usually more effort. However, in a world where technology changes at each blink, paper remains the same. There is something real, something tangible about having the album Skydiving in the Highlands, August 2008 to page turn rather than scroll down. Maybe your children will never be interested in You In Your Twenties, who knows? At least they can pull the plastic back and forth off the sticky strips on the pages.