As adults, we often look back on our childhood memories. Some are good – like the time I walked down Main Street USA at Disneyland in 1976, for the very first time, with my grandpa. Others, not so much. You’ll have to forgive me for not mentioning those.
For most of us parents, our childhood memories exist mostly in our minds. While there may be photos, there likely aren’t many. Back in the day, even when cameras weren’t all that expensive, it was the film and processing that was. And then you’d pay for the developing and processing only to have a pile of photos that were useless. Maybe we’d have a few that were good. And by good I mean passable, definitely not anything that would be worth sharing across the universe. But, despite them being over or under exposed, including a close-up of a finger, being out of focus, or any other of the long list of reasons to be less than perfect we carefully added them to scrapbooks or, more likely, those photo books with the sticky plastic.
Today, though, it’s easier than ever to take photos. Digital cameras are inexpensive and now produce high quality photos. Errors can be corrected with software, so we don’t have to print photos that will just end up in the trash. That is if we even print the photos.
I remember my first “real” camera. I was in middle school and I used some of my Bat Mitzvah money to buy a Kodak Disc Camera. It was cutting-edge technology and sleek. And I loved that camera! It allowed me to capture so many memories from my teen years.
Looking back, most of the pictures are kinda crappy. But to me, they’re as precious as gold because it was the first time I got to take my own pictures and document my life. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but these hold a million memories. Unfortunately, with the cost of film and developing and the fact that the film was unique the resulting photos were often less than desirable. But, the photos were mine and the memories they evoked were priceless.
As a parent of a tween who’s had her own camera since she was a toddler, the idea of capturing memories isn’t that special feeling I thought it would be. Or, so I thought. When your child has had their own camera for almost half their life, and they’re only 11, as parents we just take for granted that taking photos and documenting life is both second-nature and expected for them.
As I was packing for BabyGirl’s first trip to New York, I didn’t want to schlep around one of the digital cameras. Partly because, well, it’s just a camera. And, while it’s a good quality one, it doesn’t have the responsiveness that I’ve experienced on the recent devices I’ve used. I knew I’d be using my new Nokia Lumia Icon Window’s phone so I wanted something that would be easy for BabyGirl to use and give her flexibility but wouldn’t be bulky or heavy for me to carry around the city.
I went with the Droid Ultra mainly because it was lightweight and it was white so I could find it easily in my bag. She downloaded a few photo apps along the way to create collages and edit her photos. It was a way for her not only to pass time while waiting but also to think about what she would do differently. In a few short day of non-stop photos, she really had command of the device. More importantly, she was capturing memories SHE wanted. She became an active curator of her history and for the first time was truly able to decide what she wanted to remember and share with her friends.
This is one of the collages BabyGirl made on the phone. It’s from the New York Public Library and she was able to put this together while we waited for the subway later in the day. She was excited to create her own collage, and it left her with ideas of photos she wanted to take at other places we visited.
These are just a few of the nearly 200 photos she took. Her involvement in what she experienced, saw, appreciated, and captured was greater because she was not just a bystander posing for photos with mom or dad or by herself so we could create memories for her. While BabyGirl is always interested in where we go, this time was different. She kept her eye out for things that interested her and thought about whether or not she should photograph it.
But having her own device didn’t take away from what she was experiencing. She spent hours at the American Museum of Natural History reading and looking at exhibits, not once thinking about taking photos. She was disappointed she couldn’t take photos at the FIT Museum but took time to appreciate seeing the clothing so closely. And while she was tempted to take photos of people on the subway, it was a quick lesson in respecting people’s privacy and dignity even when you may have the right to take photos.
BabyGirl doesn’t have her own phone to call and text people. We’re just not at that point. But, I’m rethinking her having a device, especially when we travel. She has her own wifi-connected camera as well as an action-type camera that she uses to make movies. But for capturing childhood memories, the amazing options within a cell phone really do open up how you want to remember growing up.
Times may change, and technology too. But what stays the same is the desire to be part of your story and to tell that story in your words. Even if those words are held in a picture.
Disclosure: I have a business relationship with Verizon Wireless and they provided me with a device so I can help you be more awesome and thus I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.