In Alina Tugend’s recent article about memory-keeping in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,“The Meaning in a Drawer Full of Old Family Snapshots” (NYTimes, 11-17-12) Professor A. Joan Saab, an associate profesor of art history and visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester speaks of how people nowadays “don’t see a photo as much as a keepsake, or as marking a moment.” She’s conflicted over the convenience of digital photography, and the beautiful way light shoots through an online photograph from the screen.
Tugend also tracks down George Miles, curator of the Western Americana collection at Yale University. He’s drawn to the way photographic prints in an album convey narrative. “Someone made a story, ” says Miles, ” this image goes before that one and after this one… to tell a story that implies movement and sequencing and narrative.”
My own gripe with digital photo collections of trips and events is that it’s just not the same sitting around the Ole Computer Monitor. If it’s not a desktop sitting on a desk it’s on someone’s lap. Cozy for them but awkward for the rest of us as we try to point at a particular image, caress the page, examine handwritten notes in the margin – of which there is none.
I’m afraid that virtual photo albums will never hold a place in my heart in terms of memory-keeping.