Since I was a little girl, I fancied this picture.
I don’t know what it is about worn, faded black and white photographs that captivate me so. But for as long as I could remember my mom’s torn vinyl photo album from the 80s was my Wardrobe, my gateway to another world where I wandered lost for hours.
Removing each of the soft, delicate snapshots and turning them over to read my mother’s memos, I would imagine a time and place in which life was slower, bonds more meaningful, and emotions richer. I would picture my mom and her friends walking for miles to town to pick up the developed photos from their photographers, returning over the hills in a flurry of laughter over one another’s half-closed eyes and awkward poses now forever imprinted on paper. My own life inundated with excessive noise and gaudiness in all its perfection, I took refuge in the black and white serenity and romance of my mom’s photographs.
I eventually came to understand that my mother’s life was more black and white than romance. Reality was bleak. She could not afford school supplies if her hen did not lay eggs that month, could not eat if the harvest was bad, and could not attend school if her older brothers chose to further pursue their education instead.
Nevertheless, I know that she rode her home-made sleigh on the frozen lake every winter, sang in the church choir, made lifelong friends while in uniform, and fell in love. She wrote poems for him and he songs for her, sent them one another’s way and waited - for days, for weeks, for months. And when the earnest words finally arrived - well, I wonder what that felt like.
Waiting . Perhaps that is what I yearn so much in the present, in which everything is express, overnight, one hour, instant. Possessions become many, and satisfaction, nil. The more we surround ourselves with objects and people, the hollower our insides become.
So at the end of each day, an epilepsy of noise and color, I still find rest and magic in the faded photographs - each of them not an event, but a moment, a reward for waiting, a piece of life for an individual, my mom.
Our ever-growing megapixels snap thousands of images every day. But I wonder what more we capture than they did back then. If our thousands of high-quality pictures can move us so poignantly. If the quality of our emotions and experiences has kept pace with the means of recording it. If anything in our lives has become as clear as these photographs. If, rather than a tool with which to capture moments in our lives, we now use images from cameras to convince ourselves that we live.
And mulling over these questions, I again become nostalgic for an era that was never mine to have.