May 19, 2014

Print Memories Monday

After a 10 km (6 mile) backpacking hike, Linda relaxes on the beach of Lake Frances in
Glacier National Park, Montana in the early 90s.

This weekend we have been going through a couple of boxes of visual memories. Hundreds and hundreds of prints, just a small portion of the 1 trillion photographic prints made worldwide during the history of film cameras.

A process to record visual memories that began in 1827 allowed our lives to flash before our eyes. As we shuffled through the years via squares and rectangles of chemical-infused plastic, we triggered neurons we didn't even know we still had.

What do you do with photos in an extreme downsize? Aren't photographs "priceless"? I have read that when people enter their burning homes it is for very specific reasons - saving loved ones, pets, and photographs.

I am not sure that I want any material thing having that kind of power over me. I would run in for Linda and nothing else.

Plan A was to keep the photos by scanning the prints into our computer, but once we saw the enormity of the task, decided we needed a Plan B.

Plan B was:

View and Cull

It took hours, but we cut the print piles down by about 70%. It was exhausting work that also had moments of exhilaration, both in the memories triggered, and in the relief in unburdening our lives of stuff we hadn't looked at for years.

The next step was to repeat, cull again, and reduce the pile by a further 50%.

At several points in the process we were ready to tip the whole memory pile right into the bin, never to be sorted, shuffled, or touched again. But we persevered, we laughed, we cried, and we let go. But it is a work in progress.

Now for the slides.


  1. Anonymous5/19/2014

    I'm glad you have each other to work on this enormous project. I sometimes sit with a section of my ~20,000 photographs to attempt a scale down. I usually get some blurs tossed and some duplicates tossed. It is easier for me to scale down the digital photos saved to my computer. Empathetic with the enormity of this task. As always, I'm inspired by your progress.

    1. Terri,

      You are right that it is possible to remove a fair amount of pictures that are of poor quality. Photos probably follow the 80/20 rule, and only about 20% of shots are of the exceptional quality that you wish to keep. More if you are more proficient at photography. Maybe.

      We have far fewer photos now, but the ones we have are pretty great.

      Digital is the way to go.

    2. Anonymous5/21/2014

      Another question just came to me (and this is not the first time it came to me. I might have read it somewhere too.). When I ask myself, who is going to care about these pictures after I am gone, it is much easier to only keep the ones that are truly important to me.
      Choosing on the best quality ones -- good too. Terri

    3. Anonymous5/21/2014

      Oh, the picture in the post is VERY lovely! Just BTW. Terri

    4. Terri,

      Lake Frances is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I caught nice trout from the beach, cooked them up in a frying pan, and ate them with everyone in our group. The lake is fed by a glacier just above the waterfall. We didn't go swimming.

  2. I just did a very similar thing with our prints. Everything has been scanned, but I still struggle to toss out the prints so I did a very big cull. I think soon enough I will be able to just save the most precious and then toss the rest away, but I have to approach it in stages. If you have your negatives you can put them in negative sleeves and put them into a binder which provides some sort of peace of mind in case you ever want to locate a print in the future.

    1. Gam Kau,

      We went for it and threw out prints and negatives. Those memories are stored in our brains now.

  3. Anonymous5/20/2014

    Why burn bridges if you don't have to? I would have put such things in a store somewhere for some time if I couldn't take them with me.

    1. Anon,

      Burning bridges? We felt like burning the photos, but decided such a pyre would be ecologically insensitive.

  4. I have several shoeboxes full of photos and too many photo albums, as well as a huge box of school memories that I haven't looked at in an eternity. Time to pare down. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Anonymous5/21/2014

    My sympathies! I went through this process a few years ago when I was downsizing. I scanned them all in - it seemed to take forever! My little reward to myself was to take the photos I had scanned and put them through the shredder! We have recently had to clear my father's house after his death so I have been landed with yet another lot of photos - oh groan! I shall have to go back to the scanner but I keep putting it off. I was much more ruthless this time around though. It is hard the first time and then it gets easier. Like decluttering generally I suppose.... Frances.

    1. Frances,

      It really does get easier as you get more experienced at cutting down. That is the good news because it can be really difficult at first.

      I feel for you with the scanning. Our scanner is quite noisy and slow, so I can see how doing a bunch of photos at a time would seem like an eternity.

  6. Anonymous5/22/2014

    I used to have a ton of childhood photos that I swore I would save until whenever, until one day I decided to get rid of them, along with parental photos as well. They say that every 7 years, your body renews itself completely, so you were most literally not the person you were 7 years ago. Why should I keep reminders of something I'm not, because somebody ELSE told me to? Also, I don't talk to either my mother or father (and I am a better person for doing so), why should I store the visages of those who would otherwise have power over me? I love my autonomy.

    1. Anon,

      It feels good to leave the baggage behind to make room to evolve and grow as a person. Contrary to popular belief, change is good. Just ask your body.


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