Low-tech advice for a high-tech world

Tuesday , October 31, 2017 - 4:00 AM1 comment

MICHAEL VAUGHAN, special to the Standard-Examiner

Last week, I traveled 2,400 miles to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. She’s in great shape, and she enjoyed the opportunity to spend a few hours with friends and family, some she hadn’t seen in years.

For the event, I spent countless hours gathering photographs. Through the magic of technology, I transformed more than 100 photos into a 10-minute movie with a soundtrack. It wasn’t Oscar material, but modern technology allows an amateur to produce a pretty good film.

As I gathered the photos, I noticed that it was harder to find recent photos of my mother. It was especially difficult to find recent group photos of my mother with her children and grandchildren.

It seemed that something happened about 10 years ago that changed the nature and quantity of the photos my family was taking.

Of course, that something was the invention of the iPhone. In a matter of months, following the release of the iPhone, millions of folks put their traditional camera on a shelf and never looked back. The future of photography was the smartphone.

The photographic capability of smartphones changed the number of photos that people take. Today, many use their camera phone every day. The smartphone also changed the type of photos people take. Had you ever heard the term selfie before the smartphone?

As with most technological advances, some changes are for the better, but some are not. With that in mind, I want to ask some questions that may prompt you to reflect on the way you are capturing family memories through photographs.

If you have a smartphone, you are probably capturing yourself, your friends and your children. But are you capturing photographic memories of everyone who is important to you? Your parents may be members of the greatest generation or the baby boom generation. Maybe you are young enough that your grandparents are baby boomers.

In any case, are these older generations included in your current family photos? If you are fortunate enough to have living parents and grandparents, do you have recent photos of them?

Do you have recent photos of your parents and grandparents with you? If you have children, do you have recent photos of your children with your parents and grandparents?

Octogenarians are far less likely to post selfies on Facebook than millennials. If you want to capture memories of the older generations, you are going to have to do the work.

Informal and candid photos are great. Selfies are great. If those are the only types of photos you care for, I think that is fine. Still, some people also like the kind of composed photo where everyone looks at the camera and smiles. If you like these types of photos, do you have them?

Are you saving your photos in some type of organized fashion? Will you be able to find your digital photos 20, 30 and 40 years from now? If you have a box of old print photos, have you digitized them or taken some other steps to preserve them?

In the course of putting together the presentation for my mother’s birthday, I used photographs taken 80 years ago. I was glad to have them.

Sometime in the future, it is likely that you are going to want to put together a collection of photos that spans decades. The occasion may be a wedding, a graduation, an anniversary or a special birthday celebration. Unfortunately, for some, the occasion will be a funeral. When the time comes, will you have the photographic memories?

Dr. Michael Vaughan is a Weber State University economics professor and directs the Center for the Study of Poverty & Inequality. Email: mvaughan@weber.edu.

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