This is why I appreciate comments left on my posts. Sometimes they send me into a whole other post. This one was caused by Emjay, who generously left a comment on my Photo Challenge entry with an old picture I took. (Thanks Emjay.)
When we “share” a photo today, it usually entails uploading it into Facebook, maybe writing a few words, then letting the likes roll in. It’s rarely more than one or two photos, lest your Facebook friends accuse of you spamming their timelines. With all the smartphones in the world able to take pictures without conscience (compared to when we nursed the last few shots on our last roll of film), there’s very little in the way of personal photos posted to Facebook that aren’t gratuitous selfies. People seem to prefer things like cats, or stuff from Buzzfeed or 9GAG.
As Emjay pointed out, it used to be that sharing pictures was a social event. You had to have your friends in the same room, and you leafed through the glossies or the photo album and talked about the shots. There was a real sense of sharing, not of the pictures, but of the experience you had. The photos were a record, but it was the stories that accompanied the pictures that mattered. People didn’t usually carry cameras every day unless it was their job. Film, flashbulbs (remember those?) and developing costs were too expensive to waste on mundane everyday things. Photo records were for adventures. They were the spark that reminded you of the time you went to that place, did that thing, saw this happen, met this person. Then you told your audience the story, and they listened and reacted. In these days of Photoshop, Instagram and gigabytes of unviewed, forgotten photos stored on your cloud, I feel as though the value pictures has been cheapened.
One of the best moments in the TV series Mad Man was when a couple of Kodak engineers came to Sterling Cooper for Don Draper’s pitch to sell their new product. They called it “the wheel”. In the Mad Men universe, Don rechristened it “the Kodak Carousel” and changed the selling point. The Kodak Carousel, the classic slide projector, was no longer a newfangled device. It transported people with the power of nostalgia.
Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called ‘the Wheel’, it’s called ‘the Carousel’. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.