Is it just me, or is there something magical about snapshots? Especially black and white snapshots.
Photos are the great memory joggers of our immediate past. A good photo brings back the emotions, smells, sounds and often trivial scraps of information from a long-forgotten event.
Photography has come a long way since Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre ushered in the era of modern photography in 1839. Having a photo taken was a cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive proposition for many of our ancestors. That’s why so many of those rare, treasured portraits from those older members of our family tree have such a stiff, posed look.
By the late 1950s, though, snapshots were well within the reach of youngsters like me. My first camera was a Brownie Starflash, pretty much a box camera with an attached flash. I was a snapping fool, catching Utah’s Devil’s Slide from a Union Pacific passenger train, the curious Ossified John at the Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California, and an emergency unit racing past our house. Oh yes, and family. And friends.
Of course, today I shoot digital photos. They’re relatively easy to shoot, the results look good and processing photos is as inexpensive as its been in my lifetime. But it’s just not the same.
Have you been to a wedding where they have those cheap box cameras on the tables? My daughter did that at her wedding and, although she also had a professional photographer record the event, it’s the snapshots from those table cameras that really capture the mood and joy of the occasion.
Professional photographer Jonathan Rubin captured my thoughts perfectly when he wrote: “I own the best digital camera gear and computers money can buy, but there still is something magical about how film records an image. It’s physical, real. Light hits the emulsion and an image forms! Magic.”
If, by any chance, you come across an old camera with some exposed film inside, photo detective Maureen Taylor has some advice on how to reveal what’s lurking inside.
And, just for fun, there’s a Flickr group that’s collecting snapshots in which the photographer’s shadow makes an appearance. That’s one of them at the top of this post. I’m holding out for one that includes photographers’ thumbs.