James Smart's Philadelphia

​Of All Things 

September 20, 2017

 by James Smart

More kiddie photos, but will they last?
A magazine article reported that 92 percent of children today get their photographs taken before they are two years old, twice as often as children of the previous generation.
            Today, just about everybody is carrying around a device that takes pictures. There are still picture-making machines called cameras, but the average person doesn’t need one. Take a picture with your phone, see it instantly; feed it to your computer, put it on line.
            Those of us whose hair is gray (or missing) remember when we had to use an actual camera, into which we had to put a roll of something called film.
           After we took a bunch of pictures, we had to take the film to a camera shop or maybe a neighborhood pharmacy, from which it was sent off somewhere to be chemically developed and printed on paper. In a few days, we would pick up the printed pictures and see how they looked.
           Most children these days probably get photographed more in the first week than the last generation or two did in their first year. Some, in their first day.
           If not sooner. About 34 percent have pre-natal ultrasound pictures taken. The last two babies our family has occasioned to introduce to this world were spied on in the womb, and ultrasound photos of them spread around to grandparents, etc., vie e-mail or Facebook. They are both boys. I know this even though one of them isn’t due to emerge until February.
            I was born in an era when professional photographers still advertised “portraits taken by Electric Light.” My aunt had a Kodak camera, a box about the size of half a loaf of bread, and there are still photos extant of me as a baby and little boy, nothing like the quantity that modern technology permits, but much more likely to survive than today’s electronic images.
            It was fashionable in those Depression era days of my tot-hood to have photos taken in a photographer’s studio, posed and carefully lighted. Our family was not strongly inclined to such extravagance.
            I remember one instance when I was of pre-school age, and a man with a large camera on a tripod came to our door, and offered to take a picture of any children on the premises. With him was a pony.
            It must be explained to younger 21st century readers that in those days, men roamed the streets selling such things as vegetables, clothesline props, brooms or such services as sharpening scissors.
           My mother decided to spring for the fee to have me photographed on the pony. But a problem arose. I don’t know how other five-year-old boys were constructed, but my legs were too short to sit astride the saddle, and trying side-saddle, I kept sliding off.  The not nearly as glamorous solution to this dilemma was for me to go inside and sit on the piano stool in the parlor. I still have a copy of that picture
            Pictures taken years ago remain pasted in their old albums. But then, progress persuaded us to take slides. I still have a projector, but haven’t looked at slides in years. I have newer pictures on obsolete computer discs.
            Now we have pictures stored on the latest computer program or on flash drives or in that mysterious cloud. What will happen in a few years, when progress will inevitably strike again, with a new way to store pictures, but won’t show the old ones? Print ‘em on paper now, folks.