Slow extinction of photo albums

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By Erika Weisensee

Gone are the days of dropping off film and getting back a surprise stack of photos that you eagerly flip through. With digital cameras, we can instantly edit our memories, and we do. We point and shoot, then decide if the image is worth keeping. If we didn’t like the photo, we just hit delete.

As a person prone to frequent feng shui attacks, I like that I’m no longer accumulating dozens of bad photos and corresponding negatives that get shoved into old shoe boxes and drawers that I rarely open. I love that when I upload my photos to my computer, the software that came with my digital camera automatically organizes them by the dates they were taken. What concerns me just a little is the thought that photographs may soon live only on our computers. Are photos albums an endangered species?

I’m convinced computers are the best way to save and send photos. But when it comes to looking at our memories, huddling around the computer isn’t like cuddling around a photo album. Computers are great at storing photos, but albums and sprapbooks are much better at telling stories. Years ago, I put together a couple of scrapbooks. But since I’ve been using a digital camera, my photos rarely make it off my hard drive.

When my son was born two years ago, I made a conscious effort to print photos and make a baby book for him. It’s a book of firsts: First bath, first smile, first steps, first birthday. The album is tucked between favorite books on a shelf in our living room. Occasionally, I take it out and relive the exhausting but precious moments of early parenthood. I’ve caught my husband doing the same thing. Sometimes, you need to sit down, slow down and just remember. Albums help us do that.