A Pandora’s box of memories sits on a closet shelf with a label that simply says “Old Photos.” A tattered lid is anchored tenuously with a yellowed strip of adhesive from a long-ago era and the dust is layered in decades.
If you are like me, that is just one of many boxes that hold pieces of your life in glossy rectangles with dates stamped in the margins and maybe a name or place written across the back. Handed down from generation to generation, the boxes may be relatively small but the value is untold.
As each photo is pulled from the mass of others, a memory is released. It floats up before your eyes and brings with it names, circumstances and perhaps even sounds and smells of that moment suspended in time by a camera.
I’ve looked at these pictures so many times over the years and yet as life goes by, each one seems to have a little more meaning, a little more depth for a life that once was. I find not just memories, but emotions as well, are held in place by a piece of film paper.
Each secures a season, a location and its own story. It captures genealogies and work histories. It validates memories of fashion both in clothing and home decorating. It takes you to a time when people lived simpler and times seemed harder but smiles were bigger. Oh, and those love-filled kitchens along with the smells of cooking food in pots and something always baking in the oven.
In the “Old Photo” boxes are all those Christmases past, starting with the tall spruce tree selected after a tromp up a snowy hill. Dad with a two-bit axe in hand and Mom making sure it was the tree to fit the bay window area. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and neighbors all joining in the fun. Laughter and children’s squeals of joy echoing in the crisp air of December.
Snowballs flying and kids rolling in the drifts. Then the trek back to the pickup with the Christmas tree of the year, dragging through the snow perhaps with a child hitching a ride. Times that we as children thought would last forever.
The strings of bright lights, garlands of popcorn and cranberries placed carefully on the branches once inside the house. Those treasured special ornaments carefully unwrapped and hung high on the tree out of harm’s way. Soon, the packages under the tree evoked unparalleled excitement for days before the wrapping-paper holocaust on Christmas morning.
We remember those things without a photo but with one, they come to life in a reality our mind, left on its own, tends to tinker with and adjust. I have always loved photos and that has evolved to me becoming not only passionate about them, but pursuing photography with that same driven desire.
I don’t see a camera as a tool for a photograph. I see it as a historian at work. I know without a doubt that what comes as a result of a camera will have a special place in life not just today, but significantly more in the future.
So while we remind each other and ourselves to savor each day because we know tomorrow is not promised, I suggest we photograph each day for the same reason. Save today for those tomorrows beyond your life. Someone will be glad you did.
Julie, camera in hand, can be reached for comment at [email protected]
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]