Do Pictures Still Paint a Thousand Words?

Perusing old photos used to help me slow down and catch up with my life, the digital photo experience is quite different.

One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to spend time lingering over old photo albums. I loved hearing stories about the people and places in the worn and tattered books. I adored the old clothes and the formality of the black and white photos.

I grew up taking pictures of everything I could. I have pictures of family, friends, school, vacations and so much more. Pictures painted all kinds of words for me. They helped me catch up with my life.

I got married and I gushed over pictures from our wedding and honeymoon. I took pictures of our puppy like he was our baby. He has several photo albums dedicated to just him.

The excitement of picking up the developed film was addictive. It was like getting a present. I was filled with the hope that the perfect picture would be found inside that yellow envelope.

My girls were born and of course I continued taking photos and eagerly awaited their development. One hour photo processing became my best friend.

Then, everything changed when we bought a digital camera.

No more waiting for that perfect picture to show up in the envelope. Pictures appear on my camera and cell phone instantaneously.

Unfortunately I take too many and don't always have the time to look at them. On a recent vacation to Ireland, we took close to three thousand pictures. Three Thousand! Yes, it was crazy! We still haven't looked at them all, I wonder if we ever will. 

As much as I love taking way too many pictures and the immediate satisfaction of seeing the images as I take them; I miss saving film for the perfect shot and the anticipation of waiting for them to be developed. Wondering what surprises might lay in that Kodak envelope was fun.  

Instant gratification, while seemingly desirable, can also be kind of disappointing. We get what we want when we want it but often miss out on the thrill of working or waiting for something.

A friend recently gave me an article from St. Anthony Messenger, entitled ‘Grace in a Coffee Pot’ by Charity Vogel. Vogel laments over the lost art of brewing a big pot of coffee to share. She wonders if it’s “just one more sign of the self-centering of the average American.”

She says, “What many of us seem to want most these days is instantaneous gratification. For movies, there’s On Demand. For Internet connections, there’s broadband and high speed. For merchandise, millions of us Google and Amazon our way to ordering and expect our haul to be delivered within a day or two. For music, there’s the iPod. For books, the most impatient of us expect the libraries of the world to be able to land in our Nooks, Kindles, and smartphones. Click—done.”

Digital photos are immediate too.

It is amazing how much we can do with our photos now and how quickly we can share them on cell phones and Facebook. The technology is awesome but in the end, for me, it feels like we lose something. It makes me think of a saying from my favorite new TV show, Once Upon a Time, “Magic always comes with a price.”

Life moves awfully fast these days. Leafing through some old photo albums might be just what I need to catch up with it again and relive some of that old black and white magic.


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