6 December 2016

You can never take too many photographs

I came across a photo album this week that featured a snapshot of my life from 1993. It was the year I moved out of home, the year I broke up with the long legged truck driver and started dating the curly haired uni student. It was a year where I attended parties, went to the coast, went to the snow, went hiking, went caving went to the first of my friend's engagement parties, studied, lived.

It was the year I was 18. I would turn 19 in the December.


The photo album features faces that I will never see again. Not long after this year one of the faces in the album commits suicide. This year two more of the faces in the album have died - one from cancer and one from a heart attack. 

There are faces in that album who were the friends that I couldn't live without who I know only see on Facebook and faces in that album of friends that I couldn't live without and don't. There are the faces of my younger siblings snapped when I used to visit mum and dad's house and the face of my older brother with his then girlfriend, now wife of fourteen years. 

There are faces in that album of people who had already at a young age lived through the death of a child and who are yet to marry. Faces in that album of friends who had lived through unspeakable child abuse who never said a word until years later. There are faces in that album of friends who were just friends back then but are now married and parents. There are faces in that album of best friends that no longer speak to each other.

There are faces in that album of people who lived so close but now live so far. There are faces in that album that dreamed of a life that never materialised and there are faces in that album of people whose lives have been so much more than they ever dreamed.

There are faces in that album eating Big Macs who are now vegetarians. There are faces in that album that thought they were fat but weren't. There were faces in that album who were desperately in love and still are and faces in that album that were desperately in love and now aren't. There are faces in that album that never thought they were enough but they were. 

There are faces in that album that are carefree and laughing. There are faces in that album that are asleep. There are faces in that album who have never since touched Wild Turkey and there are faces in that album who were wild and reckless and now drive their children nuts with their rules.

I look at all the faces in that album and I think how it all seems like just a moment ago. Memory is such a slippery beast, sometimes tender and evocative and sometimes viciously demoralising. Photo albums provide such a powerful link to the people that we were. The gloriously imperfect versions of ourselves. 

You can never take too many pictures. I look back at the 300 pictures from that year and I know they don't even come close to capturing all that happened this year. The dizzy heights, the painful lows. They don't display the pain of breaking up with your first love. They don't show you the arguments with your first housemates about the washing up. They don't show you the bellyaching laughs around the campfire or the mud you vomited after a mud fight went rogue and you ended up swallowing more mud than you threw. 

They don't show you the peaceful moments where you hung out with your friends listening to movies or the crazy nights where you moshed at the ANU bar. They don't show the nights you lay on the ground and watched the stars or the boring days where all you seemed to do was work and study. They don't show you the moments that were inexorably making up the future you. 

But in the gaps all the moments are there. The photos conjure up the moments and memories not captured on film. The album is full of my history. It's full of a shared history. There are formative moments captured in that album even when they are not captured on film. 

You can never take too many photographs. You don't know when those photographs are going to have a relevance to you or somebody outside the moment you took it. Every time you take a photo you capturing not only that moment but the experience. The year. The relationships. Daily life. 

You can never take too many photographs. Trust me on this. 

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