My nan and pap recently passed away. I was given a big box of their photographs and asked to take the ones I wanted to keep and to return the box to the rest of the family.
Most of the albums were filled with grainy photos of their holidays. There were the odd ones of them, but most of them were landscape shots; beaches, cliff top walks and rolling fields. There were also a few photos of manor houses or their beloved caravan thrown in for good measure.
Some of the places I recognised, such as Chatsworth House and Brighton’s seafront, and it made me pause. I stopped to think about the loss of my nan and pap, which I guess is pretty normal. However, it also made me consider just how giving places and landmarks really are.
My first visit to somewhere new is someone else’s old hat so to speak. My trip to Brighton has been done thousands of times by other travellers. My nan and pap saw it years and years before me. Those places have brought so much happiness and excitement to so many people.
But just because I recognise a spot it doesn’t mean that their photo means much to me. It sounds harsh typed out like that, but what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know their significance of the field they snapped five different times or why a particular country park meant so much.
And perhaps it didn’t mean much. Maybe they were practicing with the camera – after all back then they didn’t have the privilege of seeing the shot they captured on the screen of a digital camera. No doubt it would have been a little disposable camera. The ones where you click and hope for the best and then venture to the shop to get it developed.
I used that sort back in my teens and used to both love and hate opening the wallet up to see what moments would be relived from my drunken night out.
Similarly, maybe they were just taken with the way the light fell or just excited at the prospect of being somewhere new.
I have no idea if those landscape photos even meant something to them or if they’d even remember them. Did they spend evenings flicking through them and reminiscing or did they stay politely boxed up out of courtesy?
Treasure Moments, Not Things
It made me a little sad when it hit me that photos only really matter to those who take them. When my day comes, is anyone really going to care about the photos of that beach I strolled along in Bali? Probably not.
Instead, they’re more likely to treasure the photos of my smiling face as I relaxed on that beach. I imagine they’d want to remember the way I looked, just like I want to remember the way my nan’s eyes glinted with mischief or the way that my pap looked at my nan as she hit click on that camera. I wish I could show you the candid pictures, but just like I don’t share photos of my little boy because I don’t have his permission, I won’t share theirs. I’ve stuck them up on my fridge with my other favourite photos so that I see them everyday.
My nan used to hate having her photo taken, especially in the later years. She’d say her hair hadn’t been done or that she wasn’t dressed up, stopping me from taking a cheeky snap. I’m guilty of saying similar things. We’re so used to everything and everyone looking so airbrushed and filtered these days, that it’s all too easy to forget what ‘normal’ looks like or maybe not what normal is (is there such a thing?), but that people have good and bad hair days, come in different sizes, have unusual looks and so on.
Isn’t it funny that something that can bother you so much that you’d stop a photo from being taken or you’d delete it from your camera roll, means absolutely nothing to someone else? They’d probably never even notice the out of place hair or loungewear. I know when I’m gone that Nova will treasure the photos of my face, whether I’m preened and perfect or barefaced and caught offguard.
I guess it’s not surprising that the photos I chose to kept were all ones of them, not places or things. ❤