Are you of a member of an online social media site, have relatives or friends, own a camera (standalone or embedded in your mobile phone), attend parties or other events, read a newspaper or other publication, travel? Do you take photos and keep pictures where you live?
If none of the above applies to you, you’re either a hermit living on the highest mountain or you’re probably dead.
From the earliest time I can remember as a child, I recall pictures gathering dust on the fireplace mantle in our house, photo albums proudly taken out of the bookcase whenever friends or relatives dropped by and the slideshows my Dad proudly created using 35mm slides. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.)
If you go further back in human history, paintings preceded photos. Before that, hieroglyphs covered Egyptian tombs and other buildings. At the dawn of civilization, our ancestors drew pictures of animals, people, nature and other scenes on walls using primitive drawing instruments.
We are visual creatures. Something within us urges us to remember the past by drawing, painting and photographing images of us and objects around us. Group photos of our families are especially important. They show lineages of our children, parents, grand parents and great grand parents. Like icons, pictures and photos remind us from whom we came. They show our place in history, society, community. They remind us of our mortality.
Can you imagine a world without pictures or photos? How would people perceive you if there were no pictures of you? Would you have a history? Would you even exist?
It’s a bit like the old philosophical question: “If a tree fell in a forest without anyone to hear it, would the tree even make a sound?” Would the tree even exist?
While the Internet, Flickr, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other websites may seem demanding (“you haven’t uploaded any photos and tagged your friends lately”), and YouTube is now a sacred mausoleum filled with millions of video clips, these online sites constantly remind us the necessity of pictures, photos and videos. They’re the digital equivalent of the dusty photo album that once lined our bookcases. They represent our past, our present and our future.
Recently a dear friend of mine–the wife of great guy and choir master for a church–died of cancer. I had a number of photos of her that I used in a slide show presentation many months ago. Well, a member of the choir asked me to share a few digital and film photos I and someone else had taken over the years for a Christmas gift to her husband who is still grieving. (They had been married for over fifty years.)
As I selected, assembled and edited the photos, memories of our friendship arose in my mind’s eye. Somehow fixating on her face brought her back to life, made her real again. The sound of her voice resonated in my head. Moments and thoughts in time, how things were before her illness, her smile, her being.
Why do we need photos and pictures in our lives? Because they are life. Still, silent glimpses of someone’s soul, staring at us, comforting us. They make us feel the moment. They are us.