It's All There in Black and White

In preparation for a recent move I took two boxes of photos down from the shelf in the hall closet, determined to place the yellowing pictures in albums. I figured it would take me two hours at the most. Well, that was a silly thought. I guess I spent about twice that and I wasn’t even half way through. I had to take the half empty boxes with us, hoping to finish the job in our new location.

You can probably imagine the reason why this has taken so much longer than I had planned. As I pick up every photo, I look at it. There’s no way I can just place it under the clear sheet and move on. These are all people I’ve known my whole life. Some are still around, but most have died.  So I sit and gaze into the photos trying to relive their presence.  

It might be a trick of the memory but they all seem happy. Everyone is smiling, of course. Many are taken at family events, like weddings. Others show family and friends relaxing, eating and drinking together. I think the black and white pictures have something to do with it.

The shadows seem to hold emotions. The sun-kissed faces are alive, as if, frozen in those frames, they would always be alive.  The surprising thing is how vivid the memories are.  I can hear their voices and laughter. It’s like it was yesterday that my brothers and cousins and I ran around outside, oblivious to the conversation of the adults. I want to believe that, even then, we knew those times were special.

But time moves on. People grow up and move to different parts of the country, even other parts of the world. Our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles are part of our lives for a limited time. So we carry the memories of those days in our minds, hearts and boxes of pictures. It’s always nice to take those black and whites out and gaze into those contented faces. It’s the least we can do, really. All of those people deserve to be remembered. It’s only right that we sit and ponder the part they played in our lives, giving them life again in our memories.

So make the time soon to take down those boxes, or take out those albums if you’re one of those organized people. Black and white photos are the perfect memory aid. The vivid color that is possible in modern photography is certainly stunning. But sometimes it gives you too much to look at. In a photo of people on the beach, you’re more likely to stare at the water if it’s a beautiful shade of turquoise. In an old black and white, you focus right in on the person’s face. The images have a timeless feel, as if you must have seen them in Life Magazine back in the day.

Happy memory hunting.

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