Karl Lagerfeld, the famous German creative director, fashion designer, artist and photographer, once said that “what I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
While we were born in different centuries and on different continents, apparently Karl and I would be kindred spirits when it comes to our feelings about the value of a photograph. From time to time, the number of photos that someone has in their camera roll on their iPhone will come up in conversations amongst my peers. My friends or family will often note that they have a lot of pictures saved on their phone, which usually turns out to be in the low thousands. Bashfully, I always reveal how many pictures are on my phone in response.
I have 48,302 pictures saved on my phone currently — actually, probably will have more by the time you are reading this article.
Beyond just the number of pictures saved onto my phone, I have hundreds of thousands more saved onto hard drives, the cloud, laptops, desktops and more. These pictures usually do not end up on any form of social media or public space. They are just for me … and anyone that gets old pictures sent to them with no context when I am reminiscing.
From the time I was a young child, I was taking pictures and videos of anything and everything. My pink iPod nano was the first device that I maxed out the storage on, taking pictures of my siblings doing homework, recording myself singing Selena Gomez in the worst possible pitch (and proud of it) and capturing both the mundane and the meaningful.
My dog was likely the most photographed thing on my iPod. Pictures of my outfits probably came in at a close second. I was obsessed with capturing moments and memories, creating a visual record of my daily life.
I still am obsessed with capturing the most mundane moments and memories. There is not a single day that goes by that I do not take a picture, all helpfully dated and categorized by my phone.
On March 7 of this year, I took a picture of my pink, overpacked suitcase in the Philadelphia airport. On March 8, I took a picture of four of my friends in front of a sunset. On March 9, my friends and I took pictures in front of murals at Wynwood Walls in Miami. I also took (too) many pictures of my mini Key Lime pie from a Miami bakery. On March 10, I took a picture of my friend doing a cartwheel on a Boca Raton beach. Each moment capturing a mood, a feeling, a memory … but, unfortunately, the smiling, laughing people in those pictures had no idea what the rest of 2020 had in store for them and everyone else.
In the months following, the random pictures that I was taking began to look a lot different. No more pictures out at restaurants capturing a memorable meal and definitely no trips to faraway places. Masks became a key feature of many photos. I took a lot of pictures during my daily walks around the neighborhood. My four siblings doing homework were once again common pictures in my camera roll just like the pink iPod nano days.
Despite the upheaval to life as we knew it, the number of photos that I took daily surprisingly stayed somewhat the same. These past six months were filled with much different moments than the person in one of my selfies from earlier in the year could have ever predicted, but this time has taught me that all memories — whether big or small — are important to remember and cherish.
I have been fortunate that those closest to me have stayed healthy and that my camera roll does not include any photos of suffering or pain due to the virus.
The current pandemic has upended so many lives and altered or delayed many people’s future dreams, but the world still has so many beautiful moments to capture that are impossible to reproduce.
So please, take a few extra pictures today before these moments are gone forever. And I hope that years from now, you will get to look back on them, and other moments that you capture, fondly.