It is possible that my digital photographs are slightly better organized than was the case when I was dealing with negatives and prints, but the improvement in organization is only slight. Some of the organization is technical. With GPS capabilities in my cameras, I can do a quick sort by location, which helps me find the pictures I’m looking for. Face recognition technology is also improving and works at times to help me find particular pictures. But the problem that I had before, clutter, remains. The bottom line is that I take a lot of pictures - perhaps not the number of those who are constantly taking selfies with their cell phones, but a lot.
The recent rebuild of my web site has sent me looking through my photos for images to use in the headers on the site and to place in other strategic locations throughout the web documents. What I have discovered is that one of my favorite locations for pictures is seated in a canoe or kayak. In the past three months, I’ve taken quite a number of pictures of the sunrise over Sheridan Lake with the bow of a canoe in the foreground. Since I’ve built my canoes and kayaks, I recognize individual boats with ease so I also know which boat I’ve paddled the most in recent months.
Of course there are plenty of other pictures. I’ve got pictures of family events, of our grandchildren, of some of the scenery from our travels, of events at the church. It surprised me how many pictures I have of stacks of split firewood. I guess that the Woodchuck project is something that captures my eye and my imagination.
As I go through the pictures, I realize that I have a whole lot of pictures that bring back pleasant memories to me that won’t show up on my website. I take a lot of pictures of other people. And, for the most part, I don’t have permission to publish their pictures in any way. I know that there is an active debate among people who use the Internet a lot about the ethics of posting identifiable pictures of other people. I’m not sure that I have any overarching ethical rules, but I simply am aware that pictures tell stories and not every story is mine to tell. Children attend Vacation Bible School at the church. I take pictures. But I don’t feel comfortable publishing pictures of other people’s children. We do post a few pictures of children on the church web site, knowing that it is important for potential visitors to understand how important children and children’s programs are in the life of our church. But we are careful to obtain permission and we never provide direct identification of the children. When it comes to my personal web site, I’m pretty careful about which pictures I choose.
What you won’t see are pictures of myself. I don’t have very many. I’ve got a few pictures taken by others that I like. Interestingly, my favorites are of me paddling boats (go figure!). I do have a couple of formal portraits that I’ve used on the church web site and in other locations. But I have no intention of getting a selfie stick and starting to post pictures of myself all around the Internet.
The thing about it is that I kind of like some of the selfies that other people take. My niece is constantly posting pictures of herself with her friends doing interesting activities and as an uncle, I enjoy seeing the pictures. They give a report of what is going on in her life and how she is connecting with others. It helps me to feel close to her even though we live in locations separated by more than a thousand miles.
A couple of years ago I read a report that people upload an average of 1.8 billion digital images every day. That’s 657 billion photos per year. To put it in a different perspective, every two minutes humans take more pictures than ever existed 150 years ago. There are more pictures loaded onto the Internet every day than the total take per year at the height of the film camera business.
The large number of digital images on my computer is small in comparison to the total of digital images. My problem with photo clutter is small in comparison to the rest of the Internet.
In place of photo albums, people pass their cell phones around the table to show off pictures of their grandchildren. The world is changing and part of that change is instant access to images. I celebrate that change. I love receiving pictures of my grandchildren every day. I watch every video sent of them multiple times and I’m as likely to whip out my phone to show pictures to others as any other grandfather.
In general, I have found that most people would rather look at pictures of my grandchildren than pictures of my canoes. Still, I’ve chosen a picture of the sunrise over the lake as the banner photo for the home page of my web site. It doesn’t show any people, but I believe it says something about who I am and how I seek to become centered in the world. The banner photo for the blog is of the same lake but taken from a different angle on a different day. It also speaks of my connection with nature, something that is important for me to convey.
Today I am feeling grateful that I have had the opportunity in the last month to rebuild my web site. It has been quite a bit of work, but thinking seriously about what to keep and what to discard has been helpful. Looking at my pictures, even the ones that I choose not to publish, has reminded me of what a wonderful life I have and how many terrific experiences I and blessed to enjoy.
And once in a while I choose another picture to publish. Chances are pretty good there is a canoe in the picture.