First I fell in love with photographs, then, years later, making them. It was a love discovered after hours spent leafing through countless shoe-boxes of forgotten faces: people whom I would never meet that made my existence possible, my parents long before we were introduced. This is no longer a common experience, there are no more physical albums of drugstore prints. Everything is digital, the tactility of holding on to your great grandmothers face is a thing of the past. Were I born any later, I often wonder if this love for photographs would have ever developed.
A physical print has a presence, it demands something of it’s viewer. We spend more time looking at photographic prints because they are objects, a part of our world. They are softer, quieter, yet more demanding of their viewer; they do not pulsate with the glow of a backlit computer monitor or cellphone screen. Family photos used to be more private, more sacred, a few prints hung on walls, stuffed into albums and stored inside boxes. They used to cost money, take time and have value. Now, like everything else in our twenty-first century world, the family portrait has become instantaneous and overly shared. We aren’t limited to twenty-four frames, but instead have virtually unlimited memory; we don’t wait for prints, but snap and post immediately. These truths have somewhat taken the curation out of family life, we don’t just shoot the highs (Christmas, baptism, first communion, graduation, weddings), but also the lows. How many pictures have you seen on the internet of sick children and gnarly cuts? We can no longer hide behind our photographs, place the ones we love in frames and shove the rest into drawers not to see the light of day for another thirty years (those hidden ones are my favorites). Who you are, the good, the bad and unfortunately the ugly, is out there for the world to see whether you like it or not.
Over the past few summer months, it has become my duty to step in as curator of my family’s life. Last summer I pointed my camera outwards, towards my hometown and the places where my childhood memories occurred (you can read more about that series here, here and here, and view all of the photographs here). This summer I began to look inward towards my little family unit, a mom, a dad and me. Up until this summer, family photographs were their responsibility, one that, throughout my youth, my mother took fairly seriously. Around the time I hit puberty, we made the switch from film to digital. Though there may not be any correlation at all, I think it is very interesting that this is when the printing of physical images and gathering of albums stopped. My junior high and high school years exist solely on my parents computer (not backed up) and are only seen on the monitor’s screensaver. When I went to college the photographs were no longer taken with a digital camera, but instead, a cellphone, never to leave their tiny screen imprisonment. My teenage years will never exist for later generations to find in the attic, nor will my early twenties. Likewise, my parents in their forties and fifties are nowhere to be found. This summer I spent quite a bit of time at home and quickly realized that my mother was no longer doing the recording. Slowly I began to take over her duties, attempting to capture life, not at its best, but as it was. My interest in glorifying the mundane, capturing the day to day, all of the seemingly wasted time that I have grown to cherish most, took root.
These are my shoebox pictures, moments not worthy of a mantle spot. I didn’t photograph my birthday or college graduation, but I did photograph my father chasing ducks around the pond, my mothers wine placed on top of roof shingles. They are not forced and are by no means posed. This is a candid look at my family unit. The little things that mean everything, the most important moments of life I never want to forget. These photographs join the real world, not in albums, but in frames that will one day line a gallery wall. By making them real, I am forcing myself and my audience to pause, look and think about the everyday: summer sweat, sweet watermelon, lake scum and dirty feet.
Part II to come.
UPDATE (10/20/16): Upon reading this post my mother, feeling some emotion, began printing all of her folders of digital images at the Wal-Mart photo lab so that the next time I go home I will have a new shoe-box to dig through. God bless my wonderful family (insert heart emoji here).