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Where did all the photos go?

Alex Miller
Alex Miller/Vail DailyThe Miller boys - Max, Andy and Austin.
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The 4-year-old is at the top of the stairs, hair askew from sleep, chin propped in hands as he looks at us from amid a warm pool of sunlight coming in through the window. It is, in fact, a Kodak Moment, so we run for the camera.”Hold on!” he says, running into his room for a couple of stuffed animals. I look at him questioningly. “This way, I’ll look even cuter,” he tells me, matter-of-factly.Well, no one’s ever accused young children of an overabundance of modesty. But accustomed as we are to outrageous statements from the mouths of babes, this was one of the most audacious ever. As I sit here now, thought, I couldn’t say with any certainty if I’ll ever see this particular photo. That’s because, as cameras have migrated to digital, everything gets downloaded onto a computer and then … what happens?We see ads all the time advertising services for transferring digital photos into prints, but so far we haven’t gone through the trouble of figuring it all out or incorporating it into our non-existent photo reproduction budget. We’ve printed them out on our inkjets and grimaced at the quality – even when we use “photo quality” paper.

The wife does a decent job of creating slide shows on her blog page, but I like ’em hanging on the wall. While our home is plastered with plenty of those already, almost all of them predate the arrival of the digicam. I doubt we’re alone.There are also questions of our own little digital divide. I’m all Mac, the wife is die-hard PC, and photos tend to end up on her machine. For me, that’s the equivalent of having them shipped to a Swiss vault, for all the access I’ll have. If I do get a hold of the camera, I then have to find the right cord for downloading out of about 100 or so such things floating around our digitally demented house.Even when I do succeed in downloading photos onto my rig, there’s a certain amount of organization and maintenance that’s supposed to take place, which I haven’t yet prioritized. As such, I have a bunch of nested, numbered folders with photos mysteriously labeled things like “IMG1005_6349.jpg.” This could be the Cutest Photo Ever Taken of the Most Angelic Children Ever, but with a name like that, it may also never see the light of day.(Note: Just to prove myself wrong, I dug this one up and show it here to illustrate the fact that digital photos can, indeed, see the light of day. And also to show how handsome my three sons are …)Old photos can be just as problematic. When I anticipate my dotage, I think of reading Tolstoy and Pynchon and also making a final sort through the big box of old-school print photos that now resides under the bed. But I worry if anyone will even care, at that point.

To make matters worse, my father solved his own archiving problem by foisting a bunch of old family photos onto me with some vague instructions about “doing something with the damn things.” The fact that I don’t know or recognize many of the people in these photos makes it even more likely that I will, in fact, pass these onto my own children some day, with a vague exhortation to “explore their roots.”Digital cameras sure make it easy to take and share photos, but I can’t help but miss those days when you picked up the packet from the film counter, never knowing for sure what you were going to see. After all, months and, in some cases, years had elapsed between when the photos were taken and the prints developed. There are no surprises anymore with digital cameras, but, then, there aren’t any good blackmail photos left anymore, either. They get deleted immediately by the embarrassed subject.Maybe Dad had it best with the old Polaroid. You had the near-instant gratification along with a print you could hold in your hand. Who cares if you couldn’t e-mail it to Aunt Sally instantaneously? She forgot Christmas anyway.I don’t know the answers to all this. But I do need to find that USB cord thingy – now where did it go?

Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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