Photos: What’s the Point?

“We take photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.” ~Katie Thurmes

Photographs, what is the whole point?

Do you ever sit back and ask yourself why?

Why do I take so many photos? 

What am I going to do with all of these things? 

Who cares? 

What is the whole point?

Let me tell you, I have been deep in that conversation for years as I have worked to digitize hundreds of years of family photos from multiple families. My own and my in-laws.

What is the point of it all?

Just this past weekend I spent two days scanning hundreds of photo negatives. Years and years ago (that is how old I am getting) I placed all of my film negatives into sheets and placed them in a three-ring binder in my safety deposit box. It was my “Plan B” for my photos, should I ever have a disaster like fire, flooding or tornado. I then ignored them as they took up over an inch and a half of space in my box at the bank. A couple of months ago I needed the space and thought, “It is winter, maybe it is finally time to do this project of scanning the negatives into digital format and having them up in the cloud.” It is a mind-blowingly boring task.

First, you need a scanner that can process negatives, mine can do two negative strips at a time.

Then you need to take each of the negatives out of the sheet, place them two at time into the little device that holds them in place and then press the button.

Then you pick the images to scan, change the title and scan your eight images.

Repeat the process a couple million times.

This whole process, when running smoothly, takes about eight minutes. So, you have about four minutes to do something else in between or watch TV or listen to a podcast.  While I have been doing that, I have been trying to do as many other boring and MUST-do items. It feels good to be making some progress.

It has been really interesting to look back at photos from 1993 and think about all of the ways my life has expanded and how I have changed and not changed.

Back to my big question from the beginning of the conversation, Why am I saving all of this?” 

  • Part of me fears losing my history and family history.
  • I have a poor memory for experiences. If I didn’t take photos of stuff, it would just be gone from my mind forever.
  • The way I was deciding which images to keep and which ones to toss was this question: “When I am sitting in the nursing home, unable to do much of anything but look back on the life I have lived, will this photo bring me joy?  Will I smile and will my belly feel warm from the love of the people in this photo?”

Turns out there are a lot of things that I don’t care about now and I don’t think I will give a darn about later.  

That has been my interesting thought from the weekend. “How do these memories bring me joy?”

Here is one example of a photo that brings me HAPPINESS.

I remember finding hundreds of lady slippers where we were camping, and I took so many photos.  I had never seen them in the wild before and they were so beautiful. I was just thrilled. 

What I learned from this weekend’s experience with all of my negatives is that the things that really mattered to me, the pictures that brought me real joy and happiness and a feeling of love and connection, were the photos of the people I love that are no longer here. Take this photo as an example. My aunt Tanya and I are the only two people still living in this photo. I miss my uncles, my dad and my grandma Cecilia (who I am named after). Without this photo I would barely remember that day out on her farm when they called and came back to Minnesota to help her move into town.

I also came to appreciate that digital photography came along. It is so easy to have my photos backed-up in a different location and not have to deal with negatives. Thank you to the guy that invented the Joint Photographic Experts Group for taking the 1972 technology and creating the JPEG.

P.S. This little project was brought to me by the stickler, who could not let this go.  I was able to shift it from needing to be only one way and doing every single negative (thousands), to needing to be done in two days and finding a way to thin things down quickly.



JoyGenea Schumer
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach and Speaker


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