Collecting souvenirs

Photo by Michael Macgregor on a postcard purchased from a souvenir shop in Fort Augustus, Scotland.

Long before external hard drives, digital cameras and smartphones, there was the Onoffree album. 

Those of us of a certain age, time, and place might remember it– the holder of memorable photographs developed from precious film, pictures neatly arranged on a page covered with plastic and bound together in thick cover. Onoffree albums were conversation pieces brought out when friends and relatives visited. 

I mention Onoffree Albums as a reminder of a time before digital when people took photographs very thoughtfully. There were after all only 12 or 24 shots in a roll of film (I believe the 36 shots came later). Subjects were well chosen; they posed and portrayed happy scenes. 

It was the work of women in the family, the self-appointed guardians of family mementoes, who, despite their busy schedules, made sure that these keepsakes from important events were preserved for posterity, usually in an Onoffree album. (Onoffree is the brand name). 

My mother and her sister are experts at this. They take and collect photographs like crazy. I may have inherited the taking-photos-like-crazy trait, but not the preserving-and-keeping-them-in-order one. Some of the photos and other souvenirs I’ll be posting in this blog are the results of their efforts and I am forever grateful. 

The main photo in this post of the Scottish Highlands is actually from a postcard bearing the name of photographer Michael MacGregor that we bought when my aunt took me on a trip to Fort Augustus and Edinburgh, one of a number of trips we would make together in England more than 20 years ago. The photo on the previous post was also taken from that memorable, life-changing time. 

Last year, she sent me three albums full of souvenirs—pictures, postcards, train tickets, museum tickets—of those places we visited, and I was simply overwhelmed by the memories.

In a family chat recently, an older photograph surfaced, this one, my aunt noted, bearing the date March 1966. It was a 55-year-old photograph that my sister recalled my mother having. We happened to be talking about the event that was the subject of the album. Sadly, floods have devoured some of our old photographs. 

Me in front, girl on right.

Digital photographs, though easy to take, store and share, are more like impersonal, mass-produced, disposable objects with much less value. I think some photographers, filmmakers and music lovers are returning to analog ways, making use of film and collecting vinyl.  

There’s an article that talks about a return to analog and it’s not all because of nostalgia. 

Of course, above and beyond devices, there’s the whole debate of returning more of our personal interactions back to analog form. After overdosing on purely digital interactions, there’s growing interest and enthusiasm for cutting back on our digital time and focusing more on person-to-person analog interactions among people of all ages.

That’s another story for a different post. ###

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