Surrounded by old photographs, my past envelops me with a sudden rush of remembrance. Here we are family and friends captured in a brief, fleeting moment singled out from the countless hours, days, and weeks that make up our lives.
How happy we look smiling for the camera. How hopeful for the future as we pose here together, frozen for eternity in a fraction of a second and the flash of a camera. One click and an infinitesimal moment is recorded for posterity. Tomorrow’s pain and unfulfilled promises are unseen, unanticipated.
Photographs are given far more importance than they deserve. We use them to document our lives; perhaps even to define us. Then when relationships crumble and children move on into adulthood with their own lives and preoccupations, the frozen images smile back at us mocking the reality of what is now – what is today.
The life we once had — was it dream or illusion? Who are these people smiling at us now – these people caught in a millisecond of time?
Photographs wear with age, their brightness fades and their corners become tattered and yellowed; but the images continue to smile at us as they did long ago when the shutter closed and captured one shared smile, one shared space, and one microcosmic second in a lifetime.
We have all changed since those first pictures were taken. We are older, and perhaps wiser. Photographs provide proof that we have lived, but they can never tell others who we really are. Photographs are, after all, only superficial shards of the life we leave behind.
I wrote the above article many years ago when I was feeling down. Recently, I learned of another loved one with marriage problems and this article came back to me. I felt it deserved repeating.
I’ve hidden away or torn up many old wedding photos, the aftermath of divorce and unhappiness. The photos smile back almost mocking the here and now. And yet what is it that people cherish most after flood, fire or tornado? It’s the personal remembrances of family and friends; some of whom may have perished in the disaster.
Contemporary life is fraught with tragedy, deception, and strife. Just watch a soap opera any day of the week and you’ll see encapsulated the sorrows of modern life. People are not only complex, but so is the world we live in. During a crisis, perhaps those celluloid copies and digital images of friends and loved ones remind us of happier times.
After a loved one is gone, or our own life begins to fade, our memories and photographs document our lives and remind us that once we hoped, we loved, and we rejoiced.
(Wedding photos are from my oldest grandson’s recent wedding)