I've just got back from five chilly but beautiful nights in Tasmania with my good friend Shannon and my loan Olympus OM-D E-M10*. Five nights and I have 413 photos. Yep, you read that right - Four Hundred And Thirteen. Yikes. You see, this little Olympus camera that I've been playing with is much lighter than my beloved DSLR, so I've been taking it everywhere with me. I've even worn it around my neck, obnoxious tourist style. End result? I have taken a lot of photos.
It does have built in wifi, which means I've already sent some favourites to my iPhone to edit and share them on the go (so nifty!). But it's going to take weeks before I get stuck into the rest of them with editing and sorting and tagging and publishing. And when I say weeks you know I actually mean months, right? It's ace but it's also all a bit overwhelming. And it got me thinking about memory and photography, and the role photos play in our memory, especially in this age of digital cameras.
But first, some more of those Tassie shots...
At my Mum's house there's a shelf loaded with photo albums. I have fond memories of flipping through them at various ages. As kids, my sister and I would cringe at all those crazy hippy camping shots of our folks (so much nudity!), and later I'd cringe at the hair cuts of my youth (I had a mullet, sob.).
We poured over our parents' slightly kooky wedding photos - loving our Dad in his velvet top hat and Mum with her long, long hair. There were photos of my Dad's gentle old border collie; of my Step-dad building our house brick by brick; of my Mum and Step-dad's Grand European Adventure. Of me feeding baby goats in Nimbin and playing the ukulele in Queensland and blowing bubbles in our backyard with my sister.
Seeing our younger selves reflected back at us, seeing our family and what they'd done, kind of helped us tell a story, create a story, of who we were and where we'd come from. Memories help create that narrative of identity, of self. And photos can help us remember.
But here's the thing - how many photos are sitting on your phone, your hard drive right now? And how often do you pull them out and look at them? How many have been printed or scrapbooked or archived in a real, tangible way? How often do you sit around flipping through a collection of photos and laugh and talk and tell stories and ask 'remember this?'?
Photos are a great reminder of your adventures, the things you've shared as a family (whatever 'family' means to you). They document past lives; they can show you how far you've come (even if it's just in dress sense...). They remind you of how young your kids once were, how time flies past so quickly and why you really should cherish the moment, the now.
They can be our touchstone, our collective memory bank, our shared history. Something we can gather around and laugh about, or contemplate quietly. But - they can only do all this if we get them off our phones and our hard drives and out in to the world.
Consider this a call to action, a rally cry! Print, share, publish, document, archive. Revisit and reflect. Don't just capture moments - create beautiful, tangible memories you can share.
(ps. If you come back for part two and three I'll share some practical ways you can turn your digital images into real life ones, including some tips on putting photo books together...)
*Disclosure: As part of Kidspot's Voices of 2014 competition I've been lent a super awesome Olympus OM-D E-M10 for a few months. I'll be writing three challenge posts during that time and have a chance to win some really awesome stuff. I'll be telling you a bit about the camera in each post. I promise I'll tell you both the good and the bad.
Here's my initial thoughts:
Switching from DSLR. To be honest it's taken me a little while to adapt to this compact camera. I have grown quite attached to my trusty DSLR and it's lovely fixed lenses, so embracing a new camera was always going to be tricky. Although the OM-D E-M10 has all the settings to give you the same freedom and control as a DSLR, the fact that it's mirrorless means looking through the view finder is a slightly strange experience - the light looks very different in the view finder compared to the end image. Having said that, I've found using the LiveView screen works pretty well for me. I've also changed the settings so that the image is displayed for a few seconds longer after shooting, which means I can do a quick check of the end result and adjust things as needed. If you're upgrading from a compact you probably won't notice this, but if you're switching from a DSLR allow a little adjustment time!
Loving the light (x2). As mentioned the Olympus OM-D E-M10 is super light (just under 400 grams apparently) which means I do take it everywhere with me. I can throw it in my backpack and not even notice it's there. Being compact means it is perfect for travel and street photography, and candid family shots.
In Tassie I also put the camera through it's paces under all kinds of light conditions - sunrise, sunset, night, high contrast, indoor, outdoor - and it performed admirably under all of them. The clarity of the image is consistently blowing my mind (more about this later!).
Wonderful wifi. Through some kind of magic (pretty sure that's what the product specs say) the camera can talk to my phone. Built in wifi plus a free app means you can download photos directly to your phone (or tablet) and edit and post them on the run. I've been doing this for July's Photo a Day challenge and I reckon my Instagram feed has never looked so good! I'm thinking this feature is a dream for bloggers, especially those of us who travel a lot.
That darn lens cap. The one thing I'm not so keen on so far? There's a teeny tiny lens cap that's not attached to the camera body in anyway. I'm amazed I haven't lost it yet and am taking this opportunity to preemptively apologise to Olympus Australia and Kidspot for losing it in the next month. It will happen.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on photography and memory - how do you manage all those images? Do you think it's important to create an archive, to share and reflect on your photos? And is there anything you'd especially like to know about my new toy?