Life through a lens

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately scanning old photo negatives. It’s a huge project that I’ve put off for years because there are just so damn many I was afraid to start! I’m about half way through and have already viewed close to 4000 images, scanning about 2000 for my digital library. It’s a pretty curious exercise going back through years and years of photos. The rush of memories, fond or forgotten, distant or immediate, flows over you like a river. There it is: the outline of a life, or more appropriately the lives of family and friends, as seen through the view finder of a long gone camera. It’s an oddly disembodying sensation, kind of like watching a slow-motion movie of your life as if filmed through your eyes. The faces are usually smiling back at me, but I’m in hardly any of the shots. The images slide by one after the other, in odd, disjointed sequences. Weddings, children’s births and birthdays, first steps and first Christmas’s. Vacations near and far, family get-togethers, random days when I just felt like taking out the camera. But now that I’ve rewound through the last 30 years of my life I feel oddly stuck in the present, flying through all those years and memories only to come to a jarring stop at today.

I seem to take a lot fewer pictures these days. Teenage boys don’t like their pictures taken unless it’s for a promotional video for a college coach, and it seems fewer and fewer people actually smile back anymore when I point a camera at them, even when you’re on vacation. Maybe I’ve worn out my welcome or we can blame the iPhone for that. I still like to take pictures though they’re more likely to be of things and places that catch my eye, and I suppose the next great rush of family pictures will come with the graduations, weddings, and children of the next generation. I’m looking forward to that.

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