Posted by: laughs4dads | October 8, 2010

Picture Perfect

You may not have heard about this, but it is an accepted fact in the field of archaeology that well over half of the etchings ever found on cave walls were likenesses of children.  Caveparents would drag visitors to the drawings and say things like, “See, here, she’s eating mastodon for the first time.” 

Of course, that was long before they had modern inventions like digital cameras, and phones that take videos, and Internet sites that display embarrassing photos for all of eternity.

Back in the day, I actually had to take pictures of Casey on something called “film,” and then take this little cannister to a “developing shop,” and wait at least an hour for “prints.”

Now, new parents can begin annoying people immediately with digital photos e-mailed from the delivery room.

When Casey was about two, I had in my office what colleagues referred to as “the shrine.”  On a credenza there was a chronological gallery, beginning with tiny, week-old Casey on my knee, going on to “Casey in Walker,” “Casey with Bagel,” and so on, until it got to “Casey in Perfectly Proportioned Volkswagen Beetle Pedal Car Given to Her By Her Grandfather.”  There were photos by my computer, on the window sill and on my desk.  (Not included in the above list were two fine works of art, pushpinned to the wall, which represented Casey’s first dabblings in colored marker and finger paints and which resembled nothing even remotely discernible, although, if asked, I could provide a convincing argument about how they were actually remarkable renditions of, respectively, an elephant and a monster peeking over some bushes.)

The photos in my office were only a small sampling of the “Casey Collection,” a mammoth stockpile of snapshots which were either in albums or bunched in the envelopes from the developing store. 

And, of course, we were also shooting miles of videotape. Video and photographs served different functions.  Photos were for every day, that unexpected moment, that wonderful portrait.  The video camera was for lugging around to special events or milestones, like the first trip to the zoo, or the first time swimming.  I imagined myself, years later, sitting with the video camera in the back seat of a car while Casey was on her first date. 

As compared to pictures, video seemed to have a function more closely related to something archival.  Video was for long-term preservation, whereas photographs were used more for the short-term torture of acquaintances.  We had visions of sitting Casey down in front of the TV when she was 18 and having a few hearty family laughs while saying things like, “See that, hon?  That was before you shaved your head and punctured your earlobe 30 times.  Ha ha.”

Fortunately, Casey never shaved her head or endured multiple piercings. On the other hand, we’ve never watched the videos, either.

These days, of course, there is almost no difference between stills and video. You can take them with the same gear and show them on the same equipment. Neither of them is really there anyway; it’s all just a bunch of code now. And then you put the stereotypical baby-in-the-bath photos up on Facebook so your relatives can see them, and they remain on the Internet forever, just waiting to lurch out at your kid when she runs for public office or auditions for American Idol. (“Today, nude photos emerged of contestant Jennifer Conroy…”)

Barbara’s father took Super-8 movies of his three daughters growing up, and spliced them together into little vignettes.  The film is grainy and comically sped up and mostly silent, but it seems so much more authentic than the high-def stuff people take today.  There’s something about sitting in a dark room watching younger versions of yourself quietly bustling by, rushing to some long forgotten place, the colors faded, the world with lines and cracks and breaks in it.

I think it’s more like a memory should be.  

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