Freezing the frame, holding the pose | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Apr 02, 2014

I posted a picture to Facebook the other day. I made a few minor software edits, which I can explain.

But first, pictures. If I told you that every day, all over the world, more pictures are taken than have cumulatively been taken since the very first photograph, you’d probably believe me (don’t). It sounds about right, though, doesn’t it?

I’ve got roughly 3,000 photos lurking around my various hard drives. I suspect 60 percent of them I will never look at again. I suspect 15 percent of them are accidental pictures of my feet.

But we keep them because we can, and I’m conservative, surely, when it comes to this. I’m sure I know people with well over 100,000 photos. My wife has half of that consisting of just pictures of her dinner.

So it’s easy to snag one of those digital images and slap it up on a social media site, and over the past couple of years or so Throwback Thursday has been the hashtag rage, starting on Instagram and spreading.

On Thursday, if you’re playing our game at home, you post a nostalgic picture of yourself from a time when you were thin.

Or younger. Just from the past. And it doesn’t have to be you, although it makes sense if It at least has something to do with your life. But you know most people are using the thin ones.

On this particular TBT, I posted a picture of my college roommate and me, in our dorm room, standing on either side of a large collage that my roommate had meticulously constructed out of centerfolds from popular magazines of the day that were aimed at men.

So I used software, pixilating some of the details before I posted it. Not that you could see much, but I believe in propriety and I know a lot of ministers and such.

In 11 years from now, we’ll mark the bicentennial of the first photograph, although we have to narrow the definition a little: The first photograph that survived was taken in 1825.

The secrets of light and shadow and pinhole images were known for centuries before that. People just had no way to preserve the mysterious representations of reality until chemistry got into the game.

And then it was about another century before the common person thought of owning a camera, and even after that photography was more of a hobby, an art and an occasional indulgence.

Cameras were brought out on special occasions, usually, and then there was the expense and time involved with developing the film, printing, etc. People didn’t usually have 100,000 of them.

Dozens, and maybe hundreds, stuffed in shoeboxes, carefully framed, stuck in photo albums where, to this day, many of them remain stuck.

But you could touch them. You could run your fingers along the edges, feel the two dimensions, understand the trick of freezing light. They seemed more real, somehow, these photos that you held in your hands, specifically because they were so artificial.

We could look at the images, remember the moment or imagine it, and sense the DNA that scraped off the paper under our fingernails.

Now we just click with our phones, copy and paste, drag and drop. I’m a big fan of digital photography; I just thought about holding a photo, and what it was like.

This one in particular. The one I posted after some mild censorship. I’ve held it in my hands; it’s around here somewhere, I think, the original and not the digital version, a copy of a copy of a moment in time.

We were 19 years old. My roommate, Kurt, and I had been friends since the seventh grade and best buddies since high school. I’m sure my mom took the picture, at some free moment when she wasn’t dusting our shelves or checking to make sure I had clean underwear.

Both of our families had come up to the college for the weekend, mothers and fathers and siblings, and with the addition of a couple of old friends we had a picnic that day at a local park.

There are other pictures, including an attempt at a human pyramid, and later on we played a touch football game.

At one point, I caught a pass and the only defender between me and the end zone was my 40-year-old father, young but slightly overweight and with a long smoking history. He wasn’t going to catch a 19-year-old.

And so it goes, an entire day in a life, remembered from running my finger along the edge of a 4X6 piece of chemically treated paper, an anachronism now. That day, and some others before and after.

Kurt would die in 1999 at 41, so young, with a good heart but an unhealthy one. My father would pass away four years later, the smoking sealing his fate along with my touchdown.

I can’t catch that 19-year-old, either. I don’t recognize the face, not really, so young and unprepared. Or the thinness. I just know the story, and many others, all of them stored on the hard drive above my eyebrows.

It just made me think that it’s still nice to hold an actual photograph, in my actual hands, rather than scroll through them on my monitor.

It takes more time, and a photo is just that. Time. Stopped, paused, preserved. And touched, again and again, as if to help us remember, as if we needed help.

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