On a recent wedding shoot, I found myself in the home of the parents of the bride. The usual scene was unfolding: the bride and bridesmaids alternated having their makeup applied, while the bride’s mom went from room to room making sure everyone was properly tended to.
I asked her where I might find the bride’s gown for a couple of shots and she led me to a room with a wedding album proudly displayed on a tall dresser. It was the wedding album of the bride’s parents, from thirty-something years ago.
Now, in addition to being a wedding photographer, I also happen to work for an album company, so little wonder that I just had to take a peek at their album. It was a sturdy book that had held up well over the years. It was filled with the solid work of a journeyman photographer who skillfully executed all the poses and employed the soft-focus filters and special effects popular back then.
Their album had a scripted “Our Wedding” hot stamped in gold on the cover along with a pair or interlocked wedding bands. The clothes and hairstyles screamed the 1970’s, but why shouldn’t it? That’s when they were married. That was their lives back then.
I left the mom arranging her daughter’s wedding dress on the bed and quickly returned with the father of the bride. I asked if I may pose them for a quick shot of the two of them holding their own wedding album, a kind of “then-and-now” shot. The mom giggled at the thought of it saying she was not yet ready for pictures, but clearly intrigued and likely now reflecting back on her own special day so many years ago. Neither was her husband ready, I pointed out, as he stood there in tux pants and a white v-neck tee shirt. With no more urging necessary she and the love of her life put one arm around one another and together they cradled their wedding album in front of them. Click!
That album does more than hold a collection of photographs. Like any album, whether it tells the story of a wedding, a bar or bat mitzvah celebration, the success and coming-of-age of a high school senior, or a portrait session, an album ensures that not only will the story be told in the first place, but that it will live on even as the memory of it fades. Like fine wine, albums improve with age and become even more valuable to generations yet to come. Events that shape our lives, from our families, and recount our successes should be preserved because they remind us of who we are, what we dream of, and who we aspire to be.
I often hear people say that times have changed, that photo albums are no longer relevant, and that with digital file sharing and up-to-the-minute status updates the printed photograph and albums are stale and out of step. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.
The ease with which we can take and share photos today means the visual image has exploded like a bomb. In fact, there are some 300 million photos uploaded to Facebook alone in a single day. In 2015, we snap more photos in just two minutes then were taken by the whole of humanity during the first 75 years of the photographic medium. Without due respect given to those most important images captured at those most special events, we reduce them to the same status as the shot we took of what we had for dinner last night.
Photographers, urge your clients to think twice before telling you they don’t need an album, or that they’ll just “make their own“. Because they do. And they won’t. Don’t they deserve better? Don’t their children, and their children’s children deserve it too?
I know that old wedding album still stands on the tall dresser in the back bedroom of that Chicago bungalow. Even if they spend more time dusting it than looking at it these days, it still stands there to remind them of who they are.
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