The last two years I created a flipagram to document the year that was. This year I began dumping photos into it in July so come December I wouldn’t have to spend hours finding them and putting them in. It also meant that I took more photos consciously because I wanted the memories.
The funny thing about being a photographer was that my family actually ended up with less photos of ourselves rather than more. Half the reason was because when you do something for a job you don’t really want to also do it in your spare time, you can almost always spot a photographer at school plays and concerts because they’re the ones on their iPhones instead of hauling the big camera out. We are tired of the big camera, we don’t even want to look at the big camera. The other half of the reason is because I’m a cull-er. I might take 10 photos and I will chose one – the best – and throw the rest. So it’s hard for me to bother bringing the big camera out if the light isn’t good, if the kids have their hair unbrushed, if in the background I know we still have the breakfast dishes unloaded from the dishwasher. I know if I saw that photo in a gallery I would cull it, so why take it in the first place? So I had to consciously let go of the fact my five year old had moved and I chopped her toes or the image was grainy because I pushed the ISO at 6 at night. Take it, take the photo, no one is entering awards with this.
I have a few favourite photos of my mother’s childhood. In one, a Polaroid, she is standing with her sisters and my great aunt who looks like the most fabulous person, some kind of 70s celebrity, and it’s colours are retro and the focus is soft and it’s one I would have culled if I took it. But I love everything about it. A real memory, frozen in time. I love the photo of my aunt and grandfather and my aunt’s boyfriend making teacups out of string with their fingers. I love the photo of my mother clearly caught unaware as someone entered her bedroom and she was sitting in front of her dressing table.
And we are so blessed to live in an age where we don’t have to worry about the cost of film and developing. We can just shoot and shoot. What a treasure trove of captured memories we will leave to our own children.
But the other thing I wanted to talk about as we enter 2017 (which, please universe, cut us all a break on) is actively CREATING memories. I’m not talking about booking European river boat cruises (although if money is no object by all means) but simple things, read to your children, take a bush walk and collect shells, go on a picnic, try something new. I wrote a list of 50 things for 2017, some are huge big-dreaming things but many are small achievable experiences that I can fill my year with and create memories. My mother said to me the other day that she keeps saying she wanted to go somewhere with Dad and that it hasn’t happened yet because she hasn’t planned it. Some memories happen TO us – but sometimes memories are like anything else…you get out what you put in.
Write that story, visit the rainforest, collect wildflowers, bake with someone you love, have a water fight. Dream and dream and dream…and live.
And take the damn photo.